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UPDATE: Snow Closes Mauna Loa Summit

December 1, 2016, 11:43 AM HST
* Updated December 1, 4:40 PM
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Visitors at Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum were treated periodically with views of snow-capped Mauna Loa on Dec. 1. NPS photo.

Visitors at Volcanoes National Park’s Jaggar Museum were treated periodically with views of snow-capped Mauna Loa on Dec. 1. NPS photo.

UPDATE 1: Dec. 1, 4:30 p.m.

Due to high winds and heavy snow, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park closed the summit of Mauna Loa today until it is safe to reopen.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park early this morning.

Heavy rain, high winds and a foot of snow were expected, and by afternoon, a thick blanket of snow was visible as low as 10,000 feet.

Visitors at the park’s Jaggar Museum were treated periodically with views of snow-capped Mauna Loa, a novelty for many who don’t expect snow in Hawai‘i.

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The summit closure is in effect above the Red Hill (Pu‘u‘ula‘ula) Cabin.

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Hikers can still obtain a backcountry permit to hike to and stay at Red Hill Cabin, but backcountry permits to areas above 10,000 feet are suspended and day hiking is prohibited.

Hikers going to Red Hill will be advised to proceed with caution and carry appropriate gear.

In January 2014, park rangers and a helicopter pilot rescued a backcountry hiker stranded on Mauna Loa in an unexpected blizzard.

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ORIGINAL POST: Dec. 1, 11:43 a.m.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa summits through Friday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m.

A Winter Storm Warning means significant amounts of snow. sleet and ice are expected or occurring.

Strong winds are also possible. This will make travel very hazardous or impossible.

An upper-level low moving over the area will lower freezing levels and destabilize the atmosphere.

A surge of moisture moving in from the southeast is forecast to produce bursts of heavy snow across the Big Island summits above 12,000 feet.

Heavy snow, low visibility and wind, with an accumulation between 6 and 12 inches are expected through Friday afternoon.

Snow blanketing Mauna Kea at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Thursday Dec. 1, 2016. Photo: Lei Smith.

Snow blanketing Mauna Kea at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Photo: Lei Smith.

 

 

Dangerous driving and hiking conditions will exist due to heavy snow, drifting snow, strong winds and freezing fog.

Winds are blowing from the east to southeast 25 to 40 mph with gusts to 50 mph.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s to lower 30s range.

Visibility will be as low as .5 miles.

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