Spectators flock to see glowing lava from a Hawaiian volcano

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The world’s largest volcano spewed rivers of glowing lava Wednesday, drawing thousands of visitors who jammed a Hawaii highway.

Mauna Loa awoke from its 38-year slumber Sunday, spewing volcanic ash and debris To descend from the sky. A major highway connecting cities on the east and west coasts of the Big Island became the site of an unexpected sight as thousands of cars jammed the highway near Volcanoes National Park.

Anne Anderson left her night shift as a nurse to witness the scene Wednesday, fearing the road would soon be closed.

“Mother Nature is showing us her face,” she said, as the volcano belched gas on the horizon. “It’s very exciting.”

Gordon Brown of Loomis, California, could see bright orange lava from the bedroom of his rental home. So he went out to have a closer look at his wife.

“We wanted to … come see it as much as we could. It’s so bright, it blows my mind,” Brown said.

6 miles (10 kilometers) from the highway called Saddle Road, the lava slowly fell down the slope. It is not clear when it will cover the road through the old lava flows.

The road bisects the island and connects the cities of Hilo and Kailua-Kona. If the Saddle Road becomes impassable, people traveling between them will have to take the long coastal road, adding several hours to travel time.

At the current rate of flow, lava will hit the road in as soon as two days, but it could take much longer, said Ken Han, scientist in charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

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“As the lava flow spreads, it can interfere with its own progress,” Hahn said.

Kathryn Dharananda, 66, of Waimea set two alarms to make sure she didn’t oversleep, missing her chance to see the sunrise in the wake of the eruptions at Mauna Loa.

“It’s a thrill,” she said. “We’re in the middle of nature. It’s awesome that we live in this place. … I feel really lucky to be an islander.

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. current outbreak Written in 1843, it is the 34th time since records began. Its smaller neighbor, Kilauea, has been erupting since September 2021, so visitors to the national park were treated to the rare sight of two simultaneous eruptions: Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from the Mauna Loa fissure.

Abel Brown, who came from Las Vegas, was fascinated by the natural forces on display. He planned to take a closer helicopter tour later in the day — but not too close.

“There’s a lot of fear and trepidation if you get close to it,” Brown said. “The closer you get, the more powerful it is and the more frightening it is.”

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

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur was thick along Saddle Road, where people got a close-up look at the vast stream of lava.

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Governor David Ige issued an emergency declaration to allow responders to arrive quickly or restrict access as needed.

Ike, who has dealt with several volcanic eruptions in his eight years as governor, said Mauna Loa’s molten rock cannot be diverted as it moves toward the highway.

“There is no physical way or technical way to change the direction of lava flow,” Ige told a news conference. He wished he could do the same in 2018, when Kilauea sent lava across homes, farms and roads.

“But as we saw in that event, the power of Mother Nature and Madame Pele trumps anything we can do,” Ike said, referring to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire.

If lava crosses the highway, the Hawaii National Guard can help plan detours and set up bypasses, Ike said.

The lava is just past the Mauna Loa Observatory access road The power cut on Monday night, said Hon. It is the world’s premier station for measuring heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The federal government is looking for a temporary replacement site on the island of Hawaii and is considering flying a generator to the observatory to restore power so it can take measurements again.

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

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Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. Associated Press reporters Jennifer Cinco Kelleher and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu and Greg Bull and Haven Daly in Hilo contributed to this report.

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