Hawai'i Volcano Blog

Big Islanders remember the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption — its first in 38 years

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Before last year, Big Island native Krystel Hayashi had only heard stories about Mauna Loa erupting from her parents, who experienced the 1984 eruption of the 13,681-foot-tall Hawaiian shield volcano from their family home in Hilo — two years before she was born.

Krystel Hayashi, Audio Hayashi-Meurs, John Meurs and Truyn Hayashi of Hilo pose for a picture with lava flowing in the background under a glowing red sky during the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption. (Photo courtesy of Krystel Hayashi)

“They said you could see the lava coming down near where the Puainako Extension is now,” Hayashi said. “They remember being nervous about how close it came, but that they knew that the land belongs to Pele [the Hawaiian volcano goddess]. And if she wanted to come, she was going to come.”

She also vaguely remembers her grandparents and other family members who have since died mentioning previous eruptions of the world’s largest active volcano.

But while Hayashi grew up with neighboring Kīlauea putting on a lava show regularly, she couldn’t imagine Mauna Loa erupting — until it did, at about 11:30 p.m. Nov. 27, 2022.

“It was kind of surreal,” said Hayashi, one of many people across social media and elsewhere sharing memories of seeing and experiencing Mauna Loa’s 2022 eruption, its first in 38 years.

The eruption produced impressive lava fountains, some reaching up to 200 feet high. Lava flowed from several fissures, with activity eventually focused at fissure 3, where it snaked down the northeast flank of the mountain for 12 miles. It lasted 12 days, attracting people from around the world, before ending Dec. 10, 2022.


The lava crossed a portion of Mauna Loa Access Road and provided a major scare by coming within 1.7 miles of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, the Big Island’s primary east-west highway.

Mauna Loa pumped out between 200 and 250 million cubic meters of lava that covered an area of 16.5 square miles. But fortunately, it did not affect any populated areas.

Lava flows down the northeast flank of Mauna Loa during the volcano’s 2022 eruption. (Photo courtesy of Krystel Hayashi)

Pele put on a show, bathing the skies above the Big Island nightly in an eerie red and orange glow. At the time, one person described the eruption as the closest thing they could imagine to a dragon or some kind of sleeping creature waking up.

Hayashi and her family made the trek up Saddle Road to see the eruption the night after it started. She called the sight breathtaking: “Such a beautiful example of Mother Nature and its power and beauty.”

Seeing Pele in all of her greatness was also humbling, knowing people are just visitors on an island that is the Hawaiian volcano goddess’ to reclaim when and if she wants, “and we have to respect that.”


Hayahsi loved being able to share the experience with her family, including her fiancé John Meurs and her two children Truyn Hayashi, now 10, and Audio Hayashi-Meurs, now 4. She said Audio is obsessed with Godzilla and King Kong and was all about how Godzilla was going to come out of the lava. Truyn just kept asking all kinds of questions, including what if the lava made it to their house.

“They were so enthralled and captivated,” Hayashi said. “I just feel so lucky to have been born and raised on an island, and my kids as well, where we can see such beauty.”

Whitaker and Nikki McGuire of Hilo pose for a photo with the lava flow from the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption in the background. (Courtesy of Nikki McGuire)

Nikki McGuire and her family went up to see the eruption a couple of nights after it started. The 39-year-old California native who now lives in Hilo with her husband Chris and their three children, now 7-year-old Whitaker and 3-year-old twins Asher and Charley, said in a Facebook post Nov. 30 that it’s crazy to think it was already a year ago.

For her, the experience was cathartic. It brought back a lot of the feelings she experienced when her parents’ home in Leilani Estates was destroyed by the 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea, completely turning their lives upside down.

McGuire and her husband, who have lived on the Big Island since 2011, bought their house in Hilo with those memories still fresh. They moved out of Hawaiian Shores to be in a different lava zone so they don’t have to worry about reliving that experience or losing their own home to volcanic activity.


With unresolved feelings from 2018 and not knowing much about how Mauna Loa eruptions work other than they can be catastrophic, she wasn’t as enthusiastic as others when she first heard about the 2022 eruption.

“There’s the total apprehension and that sinking feeling in your gut of like, holy cow, what’s going to happen?” McGuire said, adding that she was concerned enough to ask: “Do we stay or do we go now?”

A photo of the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption. (Courtesy of Nikki McGuire)

Seeing and experiencing Mauna Loa erupt, watching destruction and creation unfold together and the beauty of it from afar, with no impending doom, instead of up close and personal like in 2018, was a healing experience.

Being able to share the experience with her family, especially Whitaker who was the only one of the three kids awake when they got there, was special.

“He was just flabbergasted and he was so excited,” McGuire said. “Whitaker was just enamored with it. And for me, it was really exciting for him to be able to witness where we’re living and what it means to live on a volcanic island.”

Frank Trusdell is a volcanologist and the resident Mauna Loa expert at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. His work for about the past 30 years has focused on the volcano. His vacation was cut short when the 2022 eruption began.

Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

He didn’t mind. He was energized. Trusdell was an intern at the observatory working on Kīlauea during the 1984 Mauna Loa eruption, so after waiting nearly 40 years for another, he was excited for the science that would be done because of it.

He said people might be chagrined hearing he likes eruptions; after all, the only way volcanologists learn about the volcano — which Trusdell called a working laboratory — is for it to happen.

The 2022 eruption gave him and his team the opportunity to collect a ton of data using new innovations and modern tools that were not available in 1984.

“I think we’ve captured a phenomenal data set,” Trusdell said.

They also captured so much data that they are still working through it a year later.

“Any eruption, whether it’s Kīlauea or Mauna Loa, is always very exciting,” Trusdell said. “I was very happy that I got to see another eruption before my career is over.”

Mauna Loa has erupted just four times in the past 73 years, averaging about 18 years between eruptions. However, between 1900 and 1950, there were 12 eruptions, or about one every 3 to 5 years.

  • The 2022 eruption of Mauna Loa, which started Nov. 27 last year, could be seen from Lili’uokalani Gardens in Hilo. (Courtesy of Krystel Hayashi)
  • Lava fountains from a fissure in the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa during the 2022 eruption. It was the first time in 38 years the volcano erupted. (File photo courtesy of the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources)
  • Photograph taken from Saddle Road at 6 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2022 shows lava flows moving northeast downslope of Mauna Loa volcano from the Northeast Rift Zone eruption. PC: USGS/HVO
  • People watch from the side of Maunakea Access Road, just below the Maunakea Visitor Information Station, as lava snakes its way down the northeast flank of Mauna Loa during the 2022 eruption. (File photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • The lava flow erupting from Mauna Loa and the glow it created in nighttime skies over the island during the 2022 eruption. (File photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

The current status of the volcano is showing there is gradual inflation happening, but Trusdell said that’s pretty much status quo. A small increase in seismic activity in late October this year reminds everyone that the volcano is still very much active.

The question becomes: Is the volcano going to keep taking longer naps between eruptions or is it changing to a more active period following last year’s eruption? No one knows, but what is certain is that Mauna Loa will erupt again.

No matter how long it is until the next eruption, those who experienced the 2022 event are likely not to forget anytime soon.

“What if it’s another 30 or more years before it happens again?” Hayashi said. “I’m so glad we have that memory!”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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