Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Volcano Begins Eruption: Live Updates

HONOLULU (AP) — Waves of orange, glowing lava and smoky ash erupted Monday from the world’s largest active volcano, and residents of Hawaii’s Big Island were warned to be prepared if their communities were threatened.

Mauna Loa’s eruption did not immediately threaten cities, but officials said residents should be prepared to evacuate if lava begins to flow toward populated areas.

When Mauna Loa erupted 38 years ago, many people who live there today were not around. The U.S. Geological Survey warned about 200,000 people on the Big Island that an eruption “could be very dynamic, and the location and progression of the lava flow could change rapidly.”

Bobby Camara, a lifelong Big Island resident who lives in Volcano Village, said everyone island-wide should be alert and watch for an eruption.

“I think everybody should be a little worried,” he said. “We don’t know where the flow is going, and we don’t know how long it will last.”

He said he has seen three silent lava eruptions in his lifetime and knows people need to be vigilant.

Ken Hahn, scientist-in-charge of the Hawaii Volcanology Observatory, said the eruption began Sunday night, followed by large-scale earthquakes.

Gunner Mench, who owns an art gallery in Kamwela, said he woke up after midnight and saw an explosion alert on his phone.

Mench and his wife, Ellie, ventured out to photograph the eerie red glow of the eruption over the island and saw lava pouring out the side of the volcano.

“You can see it blowing in the wind at the edge of this depression,” Mench said.

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“Right now it’s just recreational, but the concern is” that it could reach residential areas, he said.

The Big Island has seen a growth spurt in recent decades — its population has doubled from 92,000 in 1980.

About one-third of the island’s residents live in the city of Kailua-Kona, west of the volcano, with about 23,000 people, and east of Hilo with about 45,000. Authorities were most concerned about several subdivisions about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the volcano, home to about 5,000 people.

A Time Lapse Video A volcano that erupted overnight showed the area burning, moving like waves in the ocean.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the eruption had moved to a fissure zone on the northeast side of the volcano. Rift zones are where the rock is cracked and relatively weak – making it easier for magma to emerge.

An eruption from the northeast could send lava toward Hilo or other cities in eastern Hawaii, but it could take weeks or months for the lava to reach populated areas. The eruption may then shift to the fissure zone in the southwest. Lava from this area can reach nearby communities within hours or days.

“We don’t want to try and guess the volcano,” Hahn said. “We have to let it show what it’s going to do, and then let people know what’s going on as soon as possible.”

Hawaii County Civil Defense announced they had opened shelters because people were reportedly evacuating the beach on their own.

The average Mauna Loa eruption is not usually long, lasting about two weeks, Hon.

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“Typically, Mauna Loa eruptions start with loud noises first,” Hahn said. “After a few days, it starts to calm down a little bit.”

The USGS warned residents who may be threatened by Mauna Loa lava to review their eruption preparations. Scientists were alert Due to recent earthquakes at the top of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.

Parts of the Big Island were under an ash advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, which said up to a quarter inch (0.6 cm) of ash could accumulate in some areas.

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii, the southernmost island of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Mauna Loa, at 13,679 feet (4,169 meters) above sea level, is Kilauea’s much larger neighbor, which erupted in a residential area in 2018, destroying 700 homes. Some of Mauna Loa’s slopes are steeper than Kilauea’s, so the lava flows faster when it erupts.

During the 1950 eruption, the mountain’s lava traveled 15 miles (24 kilometers) to the sea in less than three hours.

Tourism is Hawaii’s economic engine, but Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth predicted some problems for vacationers during the eruption.

“It’s going to be fantastic where it is, but the chances of it actually interfering with the viewer’s field — very, very low,” he said.

For some, the eruption may shorten some travel time, even if the volcanic smoke is heavy due to high sulfur-dioxide emissions.

“But the good thing is, you don’t have to go from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see an eruption anymore,” Roth said. “You can look out your window at night and you can see Mauna Loa erupting.”

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Julia Neal, owner of Pahala Garden Cottages, says the eruption brings some relief after several preparedness meetings and is very surprised by what the volcano will do.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “It’s kind of a relief that it’s happening, and we’re not waiting for it to happen.”

Some of the prospective guests from the American mainland called Neil “asking me to make a prediction, and I can’t,” he said. “So I said, hold on.”


Associated Press writers Jennifer Kelleher in Honolulu, Alina Hartunian in Phoenix and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska contributed to this report.

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