Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on the planet, began erupting on November 27th, putting an end to its dormancy which has endured for the last 38 years. Since then, visitors and locals alike on Hawaii’s Big Island have tried to get as near as possible to the eruption sight to view the spectacular glow of the bright orange molten rock. Now though, with the lava inching closer and closer to one of the island’s major highways, the state’s officials have activated Hawaii’s National Guard.
CNN reports that officials continue to reassure island residents that the lava is not a threat to communities or property at this time—even as the lava nearing Daniel K. Inouye Highway threatens to shut down the shortest route on the Big Island connecting its east and west regions.
The news outlet reports the lava from Mauna Loa remains a little more than two miles away from the roadway. However, with the rate of flow consistently changing, experts are having a hard time determining when or if the lava will reach the highway.
As such, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency said in a statement, “Gov. David Ige and Maj. General Kenneth Hara activated 20 National Guard service members on Monday and placed them on active duty to assist Hawai’i County with traffic control and other roles in the Mauna Loa eruption.”
Of the eruption itself and the lava’s rate of flow, the U.S. Geological Survey explained, “There are many variables at play and both the direction and timing of flow advances ar expected to change over periods of hours to days.”
The USGS added that this is “making it difficult to estimate when or if the flow will impact Daniel K. Inouye Highway.”
Examing Mauna Loa’s Rate of Flow and Its Impact on Local Activity
As stated, experts are uncertain when or if Mauna Loa’s eruption will impact one of the most traffic-heavy roadways on the Big Island. However, if it does and residents are forced to travel other routes, the news outlet states commutes could be extended by hours.
Within the last 24 to 48 hours, the volcano’s flow has slowed from 40 feet per hour to about 25 feet per hour. Still, the survey reports “the lava flow remains active with a continuous supply from the fissure 3 vent.”
When Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, the volcano’s lava came within 4.5 miles or so of Hilo which boasts the largest population on Hawaii’s Big Island. Experts are keeping a close eye on Mauna Loa as the massive volcano, rising more than 13,000 feet above sea level, covers half of the island of Hawaii.
Aside from the Mauna Loa eruption, Hawaiians have also been tracking the lava flow of another of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s behemoths, Kilauea. Kilauea has been erupting for the past year, making the eruption of Mauna Loa alongside its smaller neighbor an even more mesmerizing spectacle for viewers.