Hawaii Volcano Eruption Has Some on Alert, Draws Onlookers

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HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The world’s largest active volcano’s first eruption in 38 years is drawing visitors to a national park for “spectacular” views, and it’s also digging up bad memories among some. Hawaii Residents who have had terrible volcanic experiences in the past.

It was only four years ago that Nicole Skilling left her home where more than 700 residences were destroyed by the volcano. He was spotted packing his car with food and supplies this week after Mauna Loa erupted late Sunday and relocated to South Kona.

Officials were initially concerned that lava flowing down the flanks of the volcano would make its way toward South Kona, but scientists later assured the public that it had migrated to a fissure zone on Mauna Loa’s northeast flank and did not threaten any communities.

However, the uncertainty is a bit worrying.

“It happened last night, so I haven’t had much time to worry about it, basically,” Skilling said Monday. “Fortunately, right now it’s in the northeast rift zone. But if it breaks on the west side, we’re talking about coming into a large populated area. … That’s why I have a little bit of PTSD.

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Although there were no evacuation orders, some decided to leave their homes, prompting authorities to open shelters in the Kona and Gao regions. Fewer people stay in them overnight, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said, and they will be closed Tuesday.

Still, some in the area were bracing for the unexpected changes.

Kamakani Rivera-Kekololeo, who lives in the southern Kona community of Houkena, kept items such as food and blankets in her car.

“We’re Macau for anything,” Rivera-Kekololio said, using the Hawaiian word for “be prepared.”

Ken Hahn, scientist-in-charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Tuesday that the lava flow was “not that fast” at 1 mph, though the exact speed is still unclear. It was moving about 6 miles (10 kilometers) downstream from the saddle road that connects the east and west sides of the island. When hitting flat ground, the run is likely to drop about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) off the road.

It is not clear when the lava will reach the road. It may hit the flat land on Tuesday or late Wednesday, said Hon.

“We’re not sure it’ll make it to the highway, but if these trends continue it’s definitely the next step forward,” he said, adding there’s the potential for a fissure to open up and drain some of the supply. Feeds the flow.

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur was thick in the air Tuesday along Saddle Road, where people were getting a close-up look at a vast stream of lava. The clouds cleared to reveal a large gas and ash rising from an open top vent above the flow.

Governor David Ike has declared a state of emergency.

“The lava flow is not affecting residential areas at this time and we are allowing schools and businesses to remain open,” he said in a statement. “As the explosion continues, I am issuing this emergency declaration now to allow responders to respond quickly or restrict access, if necessary.”

On Monday night, the Mauna Loa Observatory access road was cut off by the volcano, cutting off power to the facility. It may move toward the county seat of Hilo, but that could take a week or more.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas released from the eruption.

“Now is the beginning of this explosion,” Hahn said.

The eruption draws visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is open 24 hours a day. Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said “the visibility was really good,” especially before sunrise and at night.

Visitors there are currently able to see two eruptions: the glow from Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from the Mauna Loa fissure.

“It’s a rare time when two eruptions are happening at the same time,” Ferraghan said.

People in the North Hilo neighborhood near the Mauna Loa eruption were alert, but not too scared Tuesday.

Lindsay Cloyd, 33, said it makes her a little nervous, but she feels safe and in awe of the forces of nature in her backyard.

from the first Utah And living in Hawaii for only a few years, he was never part of the outbreak.

“I feel very humbled and small,” he said, “and it’s a profound, incredible experience to be here when that happens.”

Across the street, Thomas Schneider, 38, an optical engineer at the Gemini Observatory on Mauna Kea, just finished building his new home in the neighborhood.

The lava threat wasn’t present when he bought the property, but he had lived in Hilo for more than a decade and knew the risks.

“If you look around my property you’ll see lava sticking out,” he said. “We live in an active volcano, so there’s a volcanic zone everywhere.”

Mauna Loa’s last eruption came close to his neighborhood, but stopped short.

He said he was not afraid.

“I’ve been waiting since I got here to see Mauna Loa come out, it should be spectacular,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting to finally break out.”

Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Audrey McAvoy contributed in Honolulu.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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