The Hawaii National Guard has been activated as a key Big Island highway is threatened by lava from the ongoing eruption of the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa.
The volcano began erupting on the island of Hawaii for the first time in nearly 40 years early last week, joining the nearby Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting for more than a year.
Twenty Hawaii National Guardsmen were put on active duty to help with traffic control and other tasks, the Hawaii Emergency Management Authority announced. They’re expected to remain active for 30 days, the New York Post reported.
Lava is flowing north toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Known locally as Saddle Road and described as “Hawaii’s Autobahn,” the highway is a critical link between population centers on opposite sides of Hawaii’s main island.
The lava is about 2.15 miles from the highway and flowing at about 20 feet per hour, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s latest information on Tuesday. At that rate, it would take longer than 23 days to reach the highway.
The lava’s advance has slowed in recent days, but its flow from the volcano remains constant, according to USGS. The situation is challenging for the agency to predict.
“There are many variables at play and both the direction and timing of flow advances are expected to change over periods of hours to days, making it difficult to estimate when or if the flow will impact Daniel K. Inouye Highway,” USGS reported.
The highway remains completely open at this point, and no homes are currently threatened by lava, the Post reported. Hawaii County mayor Mitch Roth told reporters Monday that officials “feel pretty certain that the lava won’t impact any populated areas.”
When Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, lava made it as close as four miles from the outskirts of Hilo, the island’s largest city.
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.