Hawaii volcano eruption has some on alert, draws onlookers

HILO, Hawaii (AP) – The first eruption of the world’s largest active volcano in 38 years is drawing onlookers to a national park for “spectacular” scenes of the event, but also lingering bad memories for some Hawaii Islanders. horror stories from the past of volcanoes.

Four years ago, Nicole Skilling fled her home near a community where more than 700 homes were destroyed by lava. He moved to the South Kona area and packed his car with food and supplies after Mauna Loa erupted Sunday night this week..

Officials initially feared that the lava flowing down the flanks of the volcano was headed for South Kona, but scientists later assured the public that the eruption was confined to a rift zone on Mauna Loa’s northeast flank and posed no threat to any communities.

Still, the uncertainty is a little worrying.

“It was last night, so I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about it,” Skilling said Monday. “Fortunately, now it’s in the northeast reef zone. But if it breaks from the west, then we are going to enter a large populated area. … So I have a little bit of PTSD.”

Although there was no evacuation order, some people decided to leave their homes, prompting officials to open shelters in the Kona and Kau areas. Hawai’i County Mayor Mitch Roth said they will be closed Tuesday if anyone stays overnight.

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Nevertheless, the region was preparing for some unexpected changes.

Kamakani Rivera-Kekololio, who lives in the southern Kona community of Huquena, kept items such as food and blankets in his car.

“We’re makauka for whatever reason,” Rivera-Kekololio said, using the Hawaiian word for “ready.”

Ken Hon, a scientist in charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said Tuesday that the lava was flowing at less than 1 mile per hour, but the exact speed was not yet known. It was moving 6 miles (10 kilometers) down the Saddle Road, which connects the east and west sides of the island. The flow may slow as it descends to slower ground about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) down the road.

It is not known when or if the lava will reach the road. According to Hohn, it could hit flat ground on Tuesday or Wednesday night.

“We’re not sure if it’s going to reach the highway, but it’s certainly the next step if these trends continue,” he said, adding that a rift could open and leak some supply. feeding flow.

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur wafted along Saddle Road on Tuesday as people watched a wide lava flow approach. The clouds cleared to reveal large plumes of gas and ash rising from an open-top vent above the stream.

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Governor David Ige issued an emergency statement.

“We are grateful that the lava flow is not affecting homes and allowing schools and businesses to remain open,” he said. “I am issuing this emergency declaration now to allow emergency responders to respond quickly or limit access if necessary as the explosion continues.”

On Monday night, lava crossed the entrance road to the Mauna Loa Observatory, knocking out power to the facility, Hohn said. It could move toward Hilo County, he added, but that could take a week or more.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas emitted.

“Right now it’s too early to explode,” Hon said.

The eruption draws visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is open 24 hours a day. “It was amazing to see,” said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracan, especially before sunrise and at night.

Currently, visitors there can witness two eruption events: the glow of Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from the Mauna Loa fissure.

“It’s rare that we have two shootings going on at the same time,” Ferracan said.

People in Hilo, the northernmost town closest to Mauna Loa’s eruption, were cautious but not too scared Tuesday.

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

Originally from Utah and having lived in Hawaii for a few years, he was never really into volcanoes.

“I feel so humbled and so small,” she said, adding that “it’s a profound, incredible experience to be here while this is happening.”

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

The threat of lava never came up 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 rocks sticking up,” he said. “We live on an active volcano, so there’s a lava zone everywhere.”

Mauna Loa’s last volcano came close to her home, but stopped.

He said he was not afraid.

“I’ve been waiting for Mauna Loa to go since I moved here, it should be amazing,” he said. “It’s exciting that it’s finally shooting.”


Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Contributed by Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu.


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