Mauna Loa Lava No Longer an Immediate Threat to Hawaii’s Key Highway

A significant shift in lava flow from the world’s largest volcano no longer poses a hazard to a crucial highway across the Big Island of Hawaii, scientists said Thursday, saving drivers from having to navigate routes longer alternatives.

While Mauna Loa was still erupting Thursday morning, the lava flow has calmed down over the past two days, said Matthew Patrick, geologist at the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

“What we saw today was a pretty big change in the blowout in the flow field and that sort of lower part of the flow field kind of got dropped,” Patrick told USA TODAY on Thursday. .

Lava feeding the flow front toward Saddle Road, also known as Highway 200 or the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, was cut off and lava supply had dropped “significantly” on Thursday, Patrick said. .

Mauna Loa lava, which began erupting Nov. 27 for the first time in nearly four decades, was about 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from Saddle Road, the USGS said in its daily update Thursday.

Over the past few days, the Mauna Loa lava flow had already slowed as it traversed flatter terrain, according to the USGS.

“This is great news for us,” Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth told The Associated Press. But county officials will continue to monitor the situation because it can be “highly variable” and “much of the supply can fluctuate during these eruptions,” Patrick said.

With the lava in a transitional state, “it’s impossible” to estimate when or if the lava will intersect the highway, Patrick added.

There are no current threats to island communities or infrastructure, according to a Hawaii County risk update Thursday.

The highway remains open in both directions, but all areas adjacent to the highway and near the lava flow are still closed for public safety, according to the hazard update.

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Last week, local officials warned that the lava could intersect with the highway sooner, forcing officials to plan road closures and motorists to find alternate routes that could have added hours to travel times.

While the lava was expected to slow considerably, scientists observed on Thursday that there was a “higher than usual” fountain of lava, Patrick said.

The tall lava fountains have been noticed by islanders, according to David Phillips, assistant scientist in charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

A woman watches the Mauna Loa volcano erupt on December 4, 2022 near Hilo, Hawaii. For the first time in nearly 40 years, Mauna Loa volcano, the largest active volcano in the world, erupted.

Lava bystanders have been a concern among local officials.

Last week, thousands of motorists driving along the highway to view the lava prompted authorities to open a one-way “mitigation lane.” About 20,000 vehicles used the viewing route, which helped reduce collisions due to increased lava-viewing traffic at night, officials said.

On Monday, Hawaii Governor David Ige activated 20 members of the state’s National Guard to help with traffic control and other roles as lava from the eruption streamed down the highway. , according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Authorities also gave citations to people who entered closed or off-limits areas to get a closer look at the lava.

The state was “investigating people and businesses who entered the closed area and posted photos of themselves and lava flows on social media,” the Department of Lands and Natural Resources said Thursday. in a press release.

Mauna Loa Lava No Longer an Immediate Threat to Hawaii's Key Highway

Contributor: The Associated Press

USA Today

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