UPDATE: County creates ‘Traffic Hazard Mitigation Route’ for lava viewing

Mauna Loa highway safety mitigation map.

Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Journalists watch the Mauna Loa eruption on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Lava is seen up close on Mauna Loa on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022.

UPDATE 11:49 a.m.

Drivers who want to safely view the Mauna Loa eruption are asked to follow a Traffic Hazard Mitigation Route implemented by the county.


Via the route, which was unveiled today, drivers can enter the Old Saddle Road directly across from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area. From there, drivers can travel the 4.5-mile stretch of road until it rejoins with the Daniel K. Inouye Highway just before Puʻuhuluhulu near the Maunakea Access Road.

The route is one-way only, and parking will only be allowed on the right side of the road. Only passenger vehicles will be permitted into the route.

No vehicles are allowed to remain on the route for more than 90 minutes. Signage, barricades and traffic control officers will be on the scene.

“We are humbled to have come together with our state and federal partners to find a potential solution to the ongoing safety concerns along (the highway),” said Mayor Mitch Roth in a statement. “Our teams have worked tirelessly to keep the community safe through this eruption, and through the creation of the traffic hazard mitigation route, we believe that there will be significantly less risk to our community.”

Drivers are advised to remain cautious on the highway, as it remains extremely busy. The Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area will remain open 24 hours a day until further notice.

UPDATE 11:22 a.m.

U.S. Reps. Kaialiʻi Kahele and Ed Case, both Hawaii Democrats, sent a letter to President Joe Biden today requesting his help to expedite federal assistance to aid the state and Hawaii County to mitigate the long-term impacts of the Mauna Loa eruption.

“On November 29, 2022, the governor of Hawaii declared an emergency proclamation for the Mauna Loa eruption to provide relief for disaster damages, losses and suffering,” the letter stated. “We anticipate that additional federal assistance will be needed as the eruption continues.

“In addition, we seek federal assistance to help our farmers and ranchers. Agriculture is the primary engine of the County of Hawaii’s economy. The eruption’s release of sulfur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and other toxic gasses have and will continue to impact crops directly and can also acidify rainfall, negatively impacting soil and vegetation.

“In addition, VOG (volcanic organic gasses) and wind-blown hair-like threads of volcanic glass, referred to as Pele’s Hair, also impact agriculture and pasture lands. The island’s fragile economy is still recovering from the devastating COVID-19 shutdown. Federal government assistance will be crucial to helping our food producers rebound from the eruption and accompanying gas and ash impacts.

“We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has given Hawaii for prior disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope you will continue to support our state’s needs in response to these most recent volcanic eruptions at Mauna Loa.”


The Mauna Loa lava flow has slowed significantly and is now at least a week from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Ken Hon, scientist in charge for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said this morning that the lava flow has slowed to about 0.03 miles per hour, with the flow front about 3.3 miles south of the highway.

Hon said that, now that the lava is on flat ground, it will advance sporadically and unpredictably. At its current pace, it could reach the highway in a week, but Hon said it could easily take longer depending on how the lava spreads.

“We don’t know when or even if it will reach the highway at this point,” Hon said, adding that the lava could end up blocking its own path toward the highway.

Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the county will implement a traffic mitigation plan to allow people to safely view the lava without crowding the highway shoulders. Drivers will be allowed to traverse and park along a portion of Old Saddle Road between Gilbert Kahele State Recreation Area and Pu‘u Huluhulu.

Amy Phillips, spokesperson for the Pohakuloa Training Area, through which Old Saddle Road passes, urged travelers to not leave the road or its shoulders.

Magno said the traffic mitigation plan will be implemented later today.

There has been no further discussion about the possibility of diverting the lava, Magno said.

Magno also added that there will be a routine test of the county’s emergency broadcasting system today, and that sirens will sound shortly after 11 a.m. He advised people to not be alarmed and that the sirens will not be related to the eruption.

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