The world’s largest active volcano erupted for the first time in 38 years on 27 November 2022.
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa has an elevation of 4,169 metres, making it the largest volcano on the planet.
Since the volcano has been erupting for ten days now, there is a concern about the lava getting too close to a major highway, the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which serves as the shortest route between the east and west sides of the Big Island.
Officials announced that the state plans to close a portion of the highway if the lava gets too close. While lava flows are headed towards the highway, it’s too soon to confirm if it’ll cross it.
If the lava does cut through the highway, it would have a major impact on the Big Island’s infrastructure. Hawaii Island Mayor Mitch Roth is asking residents to consider what alternatives they’d use.
The state Transportation Department says it would close the highway between the 8.8 and 21-mile markers if necessary. Barricades would go up at both points and be manned by law enforcement and DOT personnel.
However, as of today, the highway is still open in both directions.
Mauna Loa Lava
Since the lava from the eruption of Mauna Loa has been flowing for ten days, it has already done some damage.
The lava flows travel at less than one mph, and flows are about five to six miles long. Within the last ten days, the lava flows have crossed a private road, cutting off access and power to an important global climate monitoring system.
The lava flow has attracted sightseers who have flocked to the area to see it for themselves, creating heavy traffic congestion on the highway.
If the lava crosses the highway causing it to close, it could add hours to residents’ commutes by forcing them to take alternate routes.
“That is the main connection between East and West Hawaii. Very, very high volumes of traffic. If, in fact, the lava was to overrun the highway, then people would add half an hour to an hour and a half depending on where they’re getting to, to their commute time,” says Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
“The staff at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say that they can provide at least 24-48 hours advance warning if the lava appears to be threatening the roadway,” said Adam Weintraub, communication director for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
“It’s a full community effort that’s going to take to come together if Daniel K. Inouye Highway is taken out,” says Talmadge Magno, administrator of the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
Mouna Loa last erupted in 1984 and lasted from 25 March to April 15.