As a former resident of Hawaii (on the Kona-side), I am well aware of the dangers posed by Kilauea and other volcanos.
Today, the lava flow comes from an area that was once a great volcanic basin. It was a interesting area for tourists to explore; it kind of reminded me of what the moon must look like up close. The Chain of Craters road circles half of the volcano giving visitors a panoramic view of the volcano floor. But, you would not want that close now!
At this time the center of the basin looks like a hole into Hell. The massive hole drops sharply over 225 meters into molten lava pushed up from miles below the earths crust.
Hawaii is dead center in the “ring of fire”, which on the map forms a ring of volcanoes. The ring of fire is basically shifting tectonic plates over hot spots and that creates the volcanic action, earthquakes and Tsunamis. The “ring of fire” encircles the Pacific and we have it along the Pacific Northwest.
Millions of years ago the Pacific plate had a hot spot burn thru which caused the magma to be pumped out under tremendous pressure forming an undersea volcano. Thus began the first of the Hawaiian islands. As the Pacific plate moved towards North America the hot spot stayed in place and this caused more islands to form, and this was the beginning of the Hawaiian islands.
The Big Island aka Hawaii is almost past that hot spot and in a three or four hundred thousand years the island volcanos will become dormant. As we speak a new island is forming over the hot spot to the South of Hawaii, but the volcano has not yet surfaced.
This time Kilauea’s vents are not working as they normally do, for some reason they are plugged up and this is causing pressure to build up under the surface like a huge boiler.
The pressure results in fractures of the earth’s surface. What you see now is lava flowing up from the cracks and taking the path of least resistance. Normally you would find lava vents or lava tubes carrying the molten rock towards the ocean. However, when pressure builds, like it is today, there is always a chance of an explosion.
A volcanic explosion can be extremely violent and can throw large hot rocks weighing hundreds of pounds miles into the air. This is when things get really dangerous! Those inside the circle of falling rock won’t have much of a chance. The local residents have been warned and told over and over to leave. Yet many in the Puna District refuse to leave and just say they will ride it out. Hawaiians are very superstitious and believe in the Goddess Pele’, so maybe they think Pele’ will be kind to them? Who knows? But, it’s a dumb move to stay in an area where a volcano is about to explode.