Hawaii volcano: Lava spills toward a highway, but governor says it’s safe to visit the Big Island
The world’s largest active volcano shoots lava fountains more than 100 feet high and sends a river of molten rock toward the main street of Hawaii’s Big Island.
The leading edge of the lava flow pouring out of Mauna Loa is about 3.6 miles from the Saddle Road, also known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, as of 9:00 a.m. local time, according to a US Geological Survey news release.
USGS officials said Wednesday it could take at least two days for lava flows to reach the strait connecting the east and west sides of the island. The advancing currents “approach a relatively flat area and slow, spread and billow,” the statement said.
Mauna Loa’s eruption drove lava up to 148 feet, the geological survey tweeted. On Wednesday, the fountains were up to 82 feet high.
Just 21 miles from Mauna Loa, another active volcano in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park keeps erupting. While Mauna Loa erupted for the first time in 38 years this week, its neighbor Kilauea has been erupting since last year.
Despite the twin eruptions, Gov. David Ige said it was still safe to visit the Big Island.
“We would encourage anyone planning to visit the island to go ahead,” Ige told CNN on Wednesday.
“It’s absolutely safe. The eruption site is high on the mountain and in a relatively isolated location,” he said.
But distracted drivers staring at the lava flows could cause problems, Ige said.
“We’re concerned because visitors and residents stop along the highway and sometimes drivers aren’t quite paying attention,” he said.
“That’s why we’re worried about traffic regulation on the Autobahn.”
On-street parking is prohibited between mile markers 16 to 31 and any vehicles parked there could be towed.
When the Autobahn is closed, commuters don’t have pleasant options.
Emmanuel Carrasco Escalante, a landscaper, said he then had to choose between taking the coast roads on the north or south side to get from Hilo to Kona.
“It’s a hassle to drive around the whole island,” he told CNN. “If the road closes it would mean almost two hours, more gas and more miles, so hopefully it (lava) doesn’t cross that road.”
Escalante said he normally leaves for work at 3:30am to arrive at 5am but fears a detour even then would get him stuck in traffic.
That The state emergency management agency tweeted There are no evacuation orders and if it becomes necessary to close the highway there will be time to warn the public in advance.
While officials said there was no immediate threat to the property, a spate of potential health hazards could be in the air.
Volcanic gas, fine ash and Pele’s Hair (strands of volcanic glass) could be carried downwind, the geological survey says. A field team found Pele’s hair in older lava flows. The agency announced on Wednesdayadding, “Hairs deposited by the wind-blown plume many kilometers (mi) from active vents.”
State health officials have also warned of the possibility of vog, or volcanic smog.
The Hawaii Department of Health warned residents and visitors about “suspended conditions, airborne ash, and sulfur dioxide levels that will rise and fluctuate in different areas of the state.”
Children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses should reduce outdoor activities that cause difficult breathing and reduce exposure by staying indoors and closing windows and doors if respiratory illnesses develop, the health department said.
Acknowledging the potential for air hazards, the governor said officials are tracking air quality monitors across the island.
“The concern is dangerous gases from the cracks. And the most dangerous thing is sulfur dioxide,” Ige said on Wednesday. “Observation of the volcano should be done from afar. It is not safe to come near.”
Although no evacuation orders were issued, Ige said he signed an emergency declaration as a “proactive” measure.
The proclamation “would make all emergency responders available should it be necessary to activate the National Guard to help with patrol and keep people off the volcano,” Ige said. “Or should evacuations be necessary, that would only allow us to act quickly and in a timely manner.”
Watch: CNN flies over America’s most active volcanoes
– Source: CNN
At 13,681 feet above sea level, Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.
“Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa rift zone eruption can be very dynamic, and the location and encroachment of lava flows can change rapidly,” the geological survey said earlier this week.
The eruption and lava flow have also cut power and hampered access to a critical climate instrument used to maintain the so-called “Keeling curve,” which is the authoritative measurement of atmospheric carbon dioxide and important scientific evidence for the climate crisis.
The Keeling Curve plot includes daily carbon dioxide concentration measurements taken at Mauna Loa since 1958.
“This is a big deal,” said Ralph Keeling, a geoscientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.
“This is the pivotal record of the current understanding of the climate problem.”