Lava From Hawaii's Mauna Loa Volcano Moves Closer to Key Highway on Big Island

Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano erupted Nov. 27

Hawaii Volcano
Gregory Bull/AP Photo

Lava from the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii continues inching closer to a key highway, which threatens the livelihood of many of Big Island's over 200,000 residents.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday said the lava was about 2.16 miles away from Saddle Road, also known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway or Route 200.

Mauna Loa, which erupted Nov. 27, has one active fissure that is feeding lava flow northward.

Aerial footage shows the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa, erupting in Hawaii.

"The lava flow has reached relatively flat ground causing it to slow down significantly over the past several days, as expected," the USGS said in a statement. "During the past 24 hours, the lava flow advanced at an average rate of about 25 feet per hour (8 meters per hour). Though the advance rate has slowed over the past several days, the lava flow remains active with a continuous supply from the fissure 3 vent."

Due to the many variables in both direction and timing of lava flow advances, the USGS said it's too difficult to estimate if or when the lava will impact the highway.

The USGS also reports that strands of volcanic glass — also known as Pele's hair — are being wafted great distances with some being seen about 50 miles away from the volcano in Laupāhoehoe, a coastal town in Big Island's northeast.

Another volcanic hazard related to Mauna Loa includes volcanic smog, known as vog, which is when high levels of volcanic gas, including sulfur dioxide, react in the atmosphere with oxygen, sunlight, moisture and other gases and particles — converting into a visible toxic haze.

"Vog creates the potential for airborne health hazards to residents and visitors, damages agricultural crops and other plants, and affects livestock operations," the USGS added.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case and U.S. Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying Hawaii County would need “immediate help” to keep island communities safe if lava flow blocks the highway. The two Hawaii Democrats noted that restricted access could hinder emergency services because one of the island’s primary hospitals is on the east side.

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has started erupting in Hawaii.

Contact Us