HONOLULU (AP) — Lava from the world’s largest volcano is no longer an imminent threat to the main highway that crosses Hawaii’s Big Island, scientists said Thursday, a development that was a welcome reprieve for drivers who depend on road.
Mauna Loa was still erupting Thursday morning, but the lava that was feeding the flow heading toward the critical road had stopped, likely due to a reduced production rate, said David Phillips, deputy scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano. Observer.
“It’s good news for us,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. Still, county officials said they’ll remain on the alert — because scientists say things could change at any time.
Lava from Mauna Loa, which began erupting on Nov. 27 after being quiescent for 38 years, was 1.76 miles (2.83 kilometers) from Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway, the US Geological Survey said.
“So just to emphasize, there is no current threat to any island communities or infrastructure at this time,” Phillips said.
Last week, officials said the earliest lava could reach the road was a week, prompting drivers to brace for disruption from a possible closure that could add hours to commutes on alternative coastal routes . But as expected, the lava has slowed considerably in recent days as it moved onto flatter terrain, leaving scientists unable to estimate a clearer timeline.
Phillips said the active fissure is still generating lava flows, but they will be localized around the fissure.
If there are additional flows in the channel, it’s highly unlikely that supply from the top will push the flow forward enough to become a threat, said Frank Trusdell, a geologist at the volcano observatory.
“So at this point, we don’t expect the new lava coming to the surface to be able to restore the power to the flows that are closest to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” he said.
Meanwhile, scientists were trying to understand why the lava fountains were higher than usual overnight — a wonder observed by people on the island, Phillips said. There was no good estimate of size, he said, but they were at least several hundred feet.
About 20,000 vehicles used a viewing route, which was opened last week in an attempt to manage crowds of nighttime lava watchers, officials said.
Members of the Native Hawaiian community planned to walk out along the highway on Friday to make sure the area was free of debris and trash.
“And as we do when we prepare for Pele’s arrival, it’s a practice for many of us to prepare our homes, prepare the areas we live in, and make sure those areas are clean,” Hawaiian said. cultural adviser Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, referring to the deity of volcanoes and fire.
For many native Hawaiians, an eruption of a volcano like Mauna Loa has deep cultural but very personal significance.
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