Hawaii National Guard to assist county with traffic control on Saddle Road

  • USGS map from Dec. 5

  • Kelsey Walling, Tribune-Herald — Lava from Fissure 3 crosses the Mauna Loa Access Road Wednesday evening.

UPDATED 1:47 p.m.

Gov. David Ige and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara are activating about 20 Hawaii National Guard service members today to assist Hawaii County with the ongoing Mauna Loa eruption.

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The service members will be placed on “state active duty” and will work with law enforcement to support traffic control near the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road.

“The Hawaii National Guard anticipates its service members to remain activated for 30 days. However, that timeframe could be shortened or extended as the situation evolves,” according to an announcement this afternoon from the state Department of Defense.

The Hawaii National Guard was previously activated in 2014 and 2018 for both Kilauea eruption response operations.

The Hawaii National Guard is comprised of more than 5,600 service members, who stand ready to respond to natural and human caused disasters in our local communities.

UPDATED 10:00 a.m.

Lava is still more than a week from reaching Daniel K. Inouye Highway, scientists estimate.

U.S. Geological Survey geologist Drew Downs said today that, based on the current pace and spreading of the Mauna Loa flow, it is still “over a week away” from the highway, if it reaches it at all.

Ken Hon, scientist in charge for the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, made a similar estimate last Wednesday when he said it would take at least a week to reach the highway.

Both Hon and Downs reiterated today that the lava’s movement is unpredictable and so an accurate forecast of its movements is impossible.

Currently, the leading edge of the flow is moving at a rate of about 15 yards an hour and is about 2.2 miles from the intersection of the highway and Old Saddle Road near Pu‘u Huluhulu. It is also about 2.1 miles from the closest point on the Traffic Hazard Mitigation Route on Old Saddle Road.

Fissure 3 on Mauna Loa’s northwest flank remains the only fissure to significantly contribute to the flow. Hon said it is emitting between 100 to 150 cubic yards of material per second, a comparable rate to the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

So far, the flow has covered a total area of 13.5 square miles, although the active flow only covers 4.1 square miles.

Hon said the flow has undergone a minor fork, with lava breaking out from the main flow and moving northwest. However, he said that the breakout is weak and may have stagnated already, and so isn’t a major concern.

Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin, garrison commander at the Pokahuloa Training Area, said the lava that has entered the training area does not threaten personnel or facilities at this time. However, he urged people to remain on the road or by their vehicles on the Traffic Hazard Mitigation Route after unexploded ordnance was discovered Sunday, briefly closing the lava viewing area.

Police spokeswoman Denise Laitinen said one citation was issued on Sunday to a vehicle illegally parked alongside the highway.

Original story:

Lava from Mauna Loa is still more than two miles away from Daniel K. Inouye Highway this morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported Sunday that the flow from Fissure 3 on Mauna Loa’s northwest flank is advancing at about 40 feet per hour. It remains unclear when or if the lava will reach the highway.

For the time being, the highway remains open in both directions. Hawaii County urges people to drive with caution.