Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, began erupting late Sunday night for the first time in nearly 40 years, sending a lava flow across Hawaii’s Big Island and spewing ash and toxic gases as residents are advised to be “vigilant” to stay.
The Hawaii Department of Health advised Big Island residents to prepare for poor air quality from ash, sulfur dioxide and vog (a harmful mixture of sulfur dioxide, oxygen and moisture), warning that “conditions change quickly” and poor conditions could be caused. “very localized.”
While the lava flow is not expected to affect any Big Island community, residents are being asked to cease outdoor activities that “cause heavy breathing,” especially among children, seniors and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Hawaii officials closed the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve and the neighboring Kipuka ‘Ainahou Nene Sanctuary for at least 90 days, according to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, while authorities set up roadblocks in the area of the volcano’s lava flow.
51%. That’s about how much of the Big Island’s landmass is made up of Mauna Loa. The volcano’s lava flow is centered on the island northeast slope, avoiding the more populated areas of Hilo and Kona to the east and west, respectively. Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno had warned last month that it would be difficult to determine which part of the island would be affected by an eruption.
The eruption comes just over a month after Hawaiian officials issued a warning that an eruption could be imminent, following a significant increase in earthquakes around the volcano. Over the course of a month, the number of earthquakes rose from between 10 and 20 a day to about 40 to 50 a day, including a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that sent the volcano into a state of “heightened unrest,” according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. There were no reported deaths when Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, even though the lava flow came dangerously close to the town of Hilo, the largest community on Hawaii’s Big Island. The 38-year dormant period since that eruption was the longest period of inactivity in recorded history, according to the US Geological Survey. Hawaii’s last major eruption was in 2018, when Kilauea volcano spewed lava and destroyed 700 homes.
Hawaii officials warn world’s largest active volcano could erupt (Forbes)
Mauna Loa Eruption Causes Flight Delays, Some Cancellations (Hawaii News Now)
No danger yet as Mauna Loa lava flows on the Big Island (Honolulu Star Advertiser)