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LIVE BLOG: Mauna Loa eruption lava flows slow to crawl

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  • COURTESY USGS
                                USGS scientists take laser rangefinder measurements of the main flow front of Fissure No. 3 from Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone eruption to determine its position relative to Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Friday, Dec. 2.

    COURTESY USGS

    USGS scientists take laser rangefinder measurements of the main flow front of Fissure No. 3 from Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone eruption to determine its position relative to Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Friday, Dec. 2.

  • COURTESY D. DOWNS / USGS
                                An aerial view of Fissure No. 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone, Thursday. Its lava fountains consistently throw molten lava bombs up to 98 feet in the air with some bursts to 131 feet high.

    COURTESY D. DOWNS / USGS

    An aerial view of Fissure No. 3 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone, Thursday. Its lava fountains consistently throw molten lava bombs up to 98 feet in the air with some bursts to 131 feet high.

  • COURTESY USGS
                                A screenshot of Fissure No. 3 erupting this morning on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa Volcano.

    COURTESY USGS

    A screenshot of Fissure No. 3 erupting this morning on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa Volcano.

Editor’s Note: Bookmark this page! This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.

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UPDATE: 5 p.m.

The Mauna Loa eruption continues, though little has changed since this morning.

Fissure No. 3 remains active and is feeding a lava flow, while Fissure No. 4 is “sluggish,” the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in an update. Fissures 1 and 2 are no longer active.

Lava flow advanced at an average rate of 150 feet per hour over the past 24 hours.

>> RELATED: For many Hawaiians, lava flows are a time to honor, reflect

Officials reiterated that advance rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks as the flow traverses flat ground. It is difficult to predict if or when the flow will threaten Daniel K. Inouye Highway, HVO said, though previous estimates suggested it would take at least two weeks for the leading edge of the lava flow to reach the road.

There is a cone developing around Fissure No. 3, which was measured at about 157 feet high.

UPDATE: 1 p.m.

The eruption from Mauna Loa’s Northeast Rift Zone continues with one active fissure — Fissure No. 3 — feeding a lava flow downslope, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Fissure No. 4 is sluggish and fissures No. 1 and 2 are no longer active.

Lava from Fissure No. 3 has advanced at a rate of about 150 feet per hour over the past day, the HVO said.

Advance rates may be highly variable over the coming days and weeks due to the way lava is emplaced on flat ground, HVO officials said.

Volcanic gas plumes are lofting high and vertically into the atmosphere before being blown to the west at high altitude, generating vog in areas downwind. Vog information can be found at vog.ivhhn.org/. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) fragments are being wafted great distances and have been reported as far the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, the HVO said.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rates of approximately 180,000 tonnes per day (t/d) were measured on December 1.

UPDATE: 8 a.m.

The eruption from Mauna Loa has eased up today with one active lava flow on the northeast rift zone.

The leading edge of the flow closest to Daniel K. Inouye Highway continues to have minimal movement and remains near the 7,000-foot elevation and 2.7 miles away from the highway, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.

Although the highway remains open in both directions, the speed limit has been reduced to 35 mph near Mauna Kea Access Road.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Mauna Loa’s first eruption in 38 years entered its fifth day today with two fissures active and lava flows moving in north and northeast directions.

According to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, lava continues to flow in the northeast rift zone, with Fissure No. 3 remaining the dominant source of the largest lava flow.

Fissure No. 3 lava flows are traveling to the north toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway but have slowed significantly. The advance of the largest flow was last clocked at about 0.025 miles per hour on Thursday, the HVO said.

Fissure No. 4 is still active with lava flows moving toward the northeast. The small lobe that was moving to the east from the fissure had stalled as of Thursday afternoon, according to the HVO.

Volcanic gas plumes are lofting high and vertically into the atmosphere. Pele’s hair (strands of volcanic glass) is falling in the Humu‘ula Saddle area, the HVO said.

Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which is still open in both directions, is around three miles away from the lava flow.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said the leading edge of the flow closest to the highway had “minimal movement,” which was described as near the 7,000-foot elevation.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth on Thursday announced a new “traffic hazard mitigation route” to address safety concerns due to increased traffic of onlookers along the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Thousands of visitors have created traffic jams with their vehicles on Saddle Road, which connects Hilo on the east side of Hawaii Island and Kailua-Kona on the west side, attempting to get a closer look at the Mauna Loa eruption.

Officials said the one-way route uses the old Saddle Road with the entrance located directly across from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. The route is 4.5 miles from the entryway to a junction point located just before Puu Huluhulu, which is located across from the highway’s intersection with Mauna Kea Access Road. See the map below.

 

COURTESY HAWAII COUNTY MAYOR MITCH ROTH
A map of the new traffic route to help mitigate traffic concerns due to the Mauna Loa eruption. Click here to view the map.

Passenger vehicles are allowed, but commercial vehicles are prohibited from entering. Signs and barricades will be present. Safety officers will be on the scene to help direct traffic flow.

Parking will only be allowed on the right side, but vehicles cannot stay in the area for more than 90 minutes, officials said.

The agency reminds the public that a traffic hazard mitigation route will provide a safer area to view the eruption.

Motorists who park along Daniel K. Inouye Highway between the 16 mile marker and the junction with Highway 190 will be subject to a traffic citation and vehicle towing, the Hawaii County Police Department said.

With authorities issuing $1,000 parking tickets to volcano watchers along Daniel K. Inouye Highway, officials are working to open up a new public viewing area at the Pohakuloa Training Area.

The public may also park at the Gilbert Kahele Recreational Area which will remain open 24 hours a day until further notice. Security guards will be on site from 6:15 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. daily.

Hawaii County and HVO continue to caution that eruptions from Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano, can be unpredictable and long-lasting, and they recommend residents visit the county’s volcano hazards website for more information and updates.

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