Hawaii volcano eruption has some on alert, draws onlookers

Hawaii volcano eruption has some on alert, draws onlookers

Despite assurances that lava from Hawaii's Mauna Loa isn't threatening communities, some residents are remaining vigilant

People watch the eruption of Mauna Loa, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano erupted Monday for the first time in 38 years. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

People watch the eruption of Mauna Loa, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaii. Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano erupted Monday for the first time in 38 years. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) The Associated Press

Officials were initially concerned that lava flowing down the side of the volcano would head toward South Kona, but scientists later assured the public that the eruption migrated to a rift zone on Mauna Loa's northeast flank and wasn't threatening any communities.

Still, the uncertainty is somewhat unnerving.

“It just happened last night, so I really haven’t had a lot of time to worry about it yet, basically,” Skilling said Monday. “And thankfully, right now, it’s at the northeast rift zone. But if it breaks on the west side, that’s when we’re talking about coming into a large populated area. … That’s why I do have a little bit of PTSD.”

“Cleary the danger for the Kau area and Kona area has gone, so there's really no need to have the shelter up there any longer,” Roth said.

Despite that, some in the area were preparing for unpredictable changes.

Kamakani Rivera-Kekololio, who lives in the south Kona community of Hookena, was keeping supplies like food and blankets in his car.

“We're being makaukau for anything,” Rivera-Kekololio said, using the Hawaiian word for “ready.”

Ken Hon, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Tuesday that the lava was flowing “not super fast” at less than 1 mph. It was moving downhill about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Saddle Road, which connects the east and west sides of the island. The flow was likely to slow down about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) from the road when it hits flatter ground.

Lava crossed the Mauna Loa Observatory access road Monday night and cut off power to the facility, Hon added. It could move toward the county seat of Hilo, but that could take a week or longer.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas emitted from the eruption.

“It's just very early in this eruption right now,” Hon said.

The eruption is drawing visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is open 24 hours a day. “The viewing has been spectacular” especially before sunrise and at night, park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said.

Visitors there are currently able to witness two eruptive events: the glow from Kilauea's lava lake and lava from a Mauna Loa fissure.

“This is a rare time where we have two eruptions happening simultaneously,” Ferracane said.

Hilo resident Lea Ferreira said she doesn't plan to be one of those spectators. And she's not worried about this eruption because she remembers the last one in 1984.

“This is nothing. She came out quiet, very quiet,” she said, referring to Pele, the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes and fire. “In 1984, you could see the flow high in the air.”

Ferreira said she could see only a bit of the glow and a “very small amount of lava” from Hilo.

Some people were driving to get a closer look, but Ferreira won’t: “I’ll let her do her thing.”

———

Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed.

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