The largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big Island, erupted last week on Nov. 28, 6 am HST. While the lava flows have since decreased in size and speed, the flow from Fissure 3 is still headed toward Daniel K. Inouye Highway, a major thoroughfare on the island.
Not only that, but residents and tourists alike have gathered on the highway to witness the incredible force of nature. The volcano has been erupting for days, shooting liquid rock, gasses, and ash into the air as high as 148 feet. As of Dec. 2, as it reaches flatter ground, lava from Fissure 3 has slowed to 131.2 feet per hour, about 0.025 mph. But, it’s still flowing toward the highway.
“We weren’t sure which way it was going to flow, you know which way Pele was going to decide to do it. So this was the best scenario for everybody because nobody’s in danger… So you just have to be thankful,” Deborah Westbrook, a resident who came to see the lava flows on Friday, told CNN.
As of Saturday morning, the speed of the lava flow hasn’t changed much, and it’s about 2.5 miles from the highway. The United States Geological Survey sent out an update recently.
“During the past 24 hours, the lava flow advanced at an average rate of about 40 feet per hour,” said the USGS. “Though the advance rate has slowed over the past 24 hours, the lava flow remains active.” Currently, there is only one active fissure feeding the lava flow, which is Fissure 3.
Lava Flow From Mauna Loa Heads Toward Highway, Hawaii Creates Emergency Road Access For Safe Viewing
Currently, the Daniel K. Inouye Highway is open to traffic on both sides, but the speed limit is reduced to 35 in the Mauna Kea Access Road area. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency has set up a traffic hazard safety route that is accessible through the highway.
The Agency shared that the new route “will provide safe viewing of lava flows,” as stopped motorists were previously causing huge traffic jams and unsafe conditions on the highway.
Viewing the lava flow is a spiritual experience for some, making it more than just a neat geological phenomenon. CNN spoke with Ku’ulei Vickery, who is a Native Hawaiian and a public school teacher. She came to see the bright orange lava flow and brought rosemary from her garden with her. She also performed a traditional Hawaiian chant.
“As a native, I’m acknowledging the space that I am in. I’m acknowledging the goddess Pele and the people who have come before me, my ancestors,” she told the outlet. “You don’t go to anyone’s house empty-handed. So, this is what I brought.”