Mauna Loa Eruption Day 3: Lava could reach Daniel K. Inouye Highway in 2 days
Three days since the eruption of Mauna Loa began, the leading edge of the lava flow is now 3.6 miles away from Daniel K. Inouye Highway. It has reached the bottom part of the slope of the volcano and is entering into a flat area.
During a U.S. Geological Survey press conference this morning, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Ken Hon said the lava could reach the highway in two days.
However, the lava is beginning to spread out and slow down.
The principle lava flow is coming from fissure 3. On Tuesday night, the flow was moving at speed of 0.08 miles per hour.
“There are a lot of unknowns on how it’s going to move across the flat areas,” Hon said.
There is a high probability the lava will reach the cross-island thoroughfare, but Hon expects the flow to meander.
“It could interfere with its own progress,” Hon said.
Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the big operation and concern is residents and visitors flocking to see the eruption on the 60 mph highway. The county is trying to work with land owners and Pōhakuloa Training Area to create an additional viewing area for safety.
If the highway is forced to shut down, Magno said it would be closed near mile marker 8 near the junction of the saddle road and Kaʻūmana Drive on the Hilo side and on the Kona side at Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area.
Discussions about diversion started this morning, but Magno said no immediate solutions were presented. If the highway is inundated, it will force cross-island transport back to the coastal routes of Highways 11 and 19.
At approximately 11 p.m. Tuesday, the leading edge of the Mauna Loa lava flow crossed Old Kona Highway, a dirt road that crosses the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve, according to the Hawai’i State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Hon said fissure 4 has declined in productivity. On Tuesday night it was moving toward the northeast at 0.03 miles per hour. A small lobe is moving to the east from fissure 4 at a slower rate than the main lobe.
Volcanic gas plumes are lofting high and vertically into the atmosphere. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) is falling in the Saddle Road area. Hon said the glass particulates are being carried 5 to 10 miles from the eruption.
Seismic monitoring detects tremor (high rates of earthquakes) in the location of the currently active fissures. This indicates that magma is still being supplied, and activity is likely to continue.
There is no active lava within Moku’āweoweo caldera and the Southwest Rift Zone is not erupting. No eruptive activity is expected outside the Northeast Rift Zone. No property is at risk currently.