Authorities in Hawaii have mobilized the state’s National Guard to assist in responding to the eruption of Mauna Loa, whose lava has been seeping continuously toward a critical highway for days.
Authorities argued that the lava jets that erupted from the volcano last week did not pose a threat to communities or property. Still, the eruption of the world’s largest active volcano has alarmed residents and officials, as molten rock continues to flow down the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, threatening to close at least part of the shortest road connecting the east and west sides of the Big Island. .
“Governor David Ige and Major General Kenneth Hara activated 20 Hawai’i National Guard service members on Monday and placed them on active duty to assist Hawai’i County in traffic control and other roles in the Mauna Loa eruption.” a Declaration.
The lava on Monday was about 3.16 miles off the highway known locally as Saddle Road, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. And the rate at which the lava was moving was unpredictable, making it difficult for experts to predict when it will reach the highway on a given day.
“There are many variables at play, and both the direction and timing of flow advances are expected to vary from hours to days, making it difficult to predict when or if the flow will impact the Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” the geological survey said. .
According to the geological survey, for roughly the past day, lava is moving toward the highway at 25 feet per hour, a decrease from 40 feet per hour over the weekend. “Although the rate of advance has slowed… the lava flow continues to be active with a continuous supply from the fissure 3 hole.”
Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, when its lava reached some 7.2 km from Hilo, the Big Island’s largest population centre. Volcano standing about 13,681 feet above sea level According to geological studies, it covers half of the island of Hawaii.
Mauna Loa began erupting again on November 27, joining Kilauea, which had erupted since last year. Both volcanoes are located inside Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, which remains open as it encourages spectators to safely view the double eruptions.
“We are stepping into the second week of the Mauna Loa eruption. Two volcanoes, two eruptions, a park. Today was another “bright” morning! Park said in an online post Monday.
While officials are trying to determine if or when the lava flow will reach the main highway, a volcano expert said the length of the eruption will play a key role in determining what it will be.
“We don’t know how long this eruption will last, and that will determine whether the highway will be under further threat,” said Natalia Deligne, a volcanologist with the US Geological Survey at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Ige told CNN on Saturday that the road closure would create “enormous inconvenience” by extending residents’ commutes by hours.
Still, many have flocked to see the rare sight of two volcanoes erupting just 21 miles apart.
For many Native Hawaiians, the eruption of volcanoes is of incredible spiritual significance.
On Friday, Ku’ulei Vickery, a Hawaii native and teacher at a nearby public school, was among those who witnessed the glowing orange molten rock stream. He sang a traditional Hawaiian hymn and left rosemary grown in his backyard as an offering.
“As a native, I accept the space I’m in. I accept the Goddess Pele and the people who came before me, my ancestors,” he said. “You don’t go to anyone’s house empty-handed. That’s what I brought.”
Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said officials had created a safe viewing point on a one-way route accessible via the Daniel K. Inouye Highway to accommodate the large numbers of residents and tourists drawn to the volcanic eruptions.
Authorities are also begging the public to be aware of the potential dangers to air quality from the explosions.
Volcanic emissions include sulfur dioxide, which reacts with other elements in the atmosphere and can begin to form fine particles that cause vog, a type of volcanic air pollution known as volcanic smog.
According to the USGS, “Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards for residents and visitors, damaging agricultural crops and other crops, and affecting livestock operations.”
The National Park Service often urges vulnerable groups, including the elderly and children, to be cautious when viewing the binary eruptions.
“People with pre-existing respiratory issues are particularly susceptible to poor air quality and should check the air quality alert before visiting,” the park service said.