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UPDATE: 4:54 p.m.
A total of 20 Hawaii Army National Guard troops arrived today at the county’s “traffic hazard mitigation route” to help keep motorists and spectators safe in viewing the ongoing Mauna Loa eruption along old Saddle Road.
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth last week announced the opening of a viewing area to relieve traffic congestion along Daniel K. Inouye Highway. The 4.5-mile route uses the old Saddle Road with the entrance located directly across from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area.
Roth said guardsmen, who will be posted for 12-hour shifts each starting today, are helping to direct increased traffic along the route.
“As more and more vehicles make their way through the mitigation route, it’s imperative that we prioritize the safety of every person and vehicle on the roadway, which requires manpower that we just don’t have on our own,” Roth said in a statement. “Adequate response relies on the partnership, and we are honored to have great partners in our fellow State and Federal agencies who have stepped up in this time of need to be there for the Hawaii island community.”
Maurice Messina, Director of Parks and Recreation, added in a statement: “They’re here to be aloha ambassadors, ensuring that motorists remain on the appropriate roadway and out of restricted areas, especially as visibility lessens with the weather.”
The Fissure No. 3 lava flow is almost 1.5 miles away from Daniel K. Inouye Highway, according to a civil defense update.
The critical transportation route that connects Hilo and Kona remains open in both directions.
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Visitors are reminded that areas adjacent to Daniel K. Inouye Highway, Old Saddle Road and near the lava flow are closed for public safety.
The Mauna Loa eruption has reached its ninth day as the lava flow marches slowly north toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which remains open to traffic in both directions.
As of 5 a.m. today, the leading edge of the Fissure No. 3 lava flow was about 1.93 miles from Daniel K. Inouye Highway, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Over the past 24 hours, the lava flow moved at an average rate of about 68 feet per hour, about twice the rate over the past several days. The advance rate varied from 62 to 90 feet per hour during shorter periods, the observatory said.
Although Daniel K. Inouye Highway is still open, all areas adjacent to the highway, Old Saddle Road and near the lava flow are closed and prohibited from public access, civil defense said.
Thunderstorms are in the forecast for the interior areas of Hawaii island and fog is also expected to make driving hazardous, according to civil defense.
No communities are currently at risk.