by Brooks Hays
Big Island, Hawaii (UPI) Aug 18, 2016
Since the Kamokuna ocean entry -- a sea-bound lava flow from Kilauea's Puu Oo vent -- began three weeks ago, eight new acres of land have been created.
Visitors are flocking to see the flow in action, oohing and aahing as lava meets ocean and clouds of steam balloon upward.
But the crowds have local park rangers concerned.
"They are deceptively stable looking," Janet Babb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told West Hawaii Today, speaking about the freshly formed lava deltas.
The deltas are situated on rubble, making them unstable. A collapse can send rocks and lava flying, potentially putting cliffside onlookers in danger.
Of course, the most obvious danger is the lava. Scientists say the molten rock is dangerous even after it enters the ocean.
"The white plume formed by the interaction of lava and seawater is a corrosive mixture of super-heated steam, hydrochloric acid, and tiny particles of volcanic glass, all of which should be avoided," HVO officials recently warned.
The lava flow is located just inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the southeast coast of Hawaii Island. Rangers are doing their best to manage the influx of hikers -- an average of 1,500 visitors a day.
Local officials say they'll continue to keep viewing areas open and staffed as along they can be safely accessed.
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