The eruption of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano has led to the National Guard being activated over concerns regarding lava moving closer to a major commuter highway.
The volcano has been spewing lava for ten days. The lava is now less than two miles from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, but there is still no threat “to any communities at this time,” according to the County of Hawaii Hazard Impact Map website. The highway is a quick way to travel from the two sides of the island.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that “the flow front was about 1.93 mi (3.1 km) from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road).”
The state’s Emergency Management Agency reported Monday evening that the National Guard had been activated.
“Hawaii’s Defense Department said outgoing Gov. David Ige and Maj. General Kenneth Hara activated 20 Hawai’i National Guard service members on Monday and placed them on active duty to assist Hawai’i County with traffic control and other roles in the Mauna Loa eruption,” the agency said on Twitter.
Hawaii's Defense Department said outgoing Gov. David Ige and Maj. General Kenneth Hara activated 20 Hawai'i National Guard service members on Monday and placed them on active duty to assist Hawai'i County with traffic control and other roles in the Mauna Loa eruption. #MaunaLoa
— Hawaii EMA (@Hawaii_EMA) December 5, 2022
The flow of lava is also speeding up, the survey pointed out. “During the past 24 hours, the lava flow advanced at an average rate of about 68 feet per hour […] about twice the rate for the past several days. Over shorter periods, the advance rate varied from 62 to 90 feet per hour,” it added.
However, when the lava reaches a flat area, “lava flows advance more slowly, spread out, and inflate,” it noted.
The spectacle has drawn observers and tourists who want to see the eruption of the volcano. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on the planet and started erupting last month on November 27 for the first time in almost forty years. Kilauea is a volcano that is close by and has also been erupting over the past year.
The entire Daniel K. Inouye Highway is open, but places next to the highway are shut down and not available to the public, according to Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth on Monday.
“With the lava being where it’s at, we feel pretty certain that the lava won’t impact any populated areas,” Roth said at a Monday press conference. “There’s a lot of (moving) pieces. How fast it’s moving. How close it’s gonna come to the highway. How long it will take if there’s any dangers that we’re seeing.”
Whether or not the lava will get to the highway is mainly based on the duration of the volcano’s eruption.
“We don’t know how long this eruption is going to last, and that will dictate whether or not the highway becomes more threatened,” Natalia Deligne, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told CNN.
Dillon Burroughs contributed to this report.