(CNN) — With the Mauna Loa volcano in full eruption on the Big Island of Hawaii, local officials and residents are closely watching the lava flow as it approaches a major highway and planning for the possibility that access may soon be cut off. generating a great impact to your daily life.
The lava flow from Mauna Loa was 5.7 kilometers from Saddle Road, also known as the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, on Wednesday morning, the US Geological Survey said. The highway is crucial as it is the fastest route through unites the east and west of the island.
“County officials have been working with the state Department of Transportation on a plan to close the Daniel K. Inouye Freeway if lava gets close enough to the road to pose a hazard,” said Adam Weintraub, communications director. of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in a statement to CNN. “The plans are preliminary and are subject to change depending on the advance of the lava.”
As of Wednesday, the lava was moving toward a relatively flat area, “so it’s slowing down and spreading out,” Weintraub said.
Emmanuel Carrasco Escalante, who lives in Hilo, on the east side of the island, told CNN that if they close the highway, his commute to work would take about four hours each way, double the normal time, regardless of account traffic.
Carrasco Escalante works as a gardener in Kona, on the west side of the island, and said he usually leaves for work around 3:30 a.m.
If Saddle Road is closed, you’ll have to detour onto either the north or south coastal roads, he said.
“That would add almost two hours, more gasoline and more kilometers, so I hope (the lava) doesn’t cross that path,” Carrasco Escalante told CNN.
Lava fountains that began to erupt from Mauna Loa this week marked that volcano’s first eruption in 38 years, joining nearby Kilauea, which has been erupting since last year, and creating rare volcanic eruptions on the Big Island. At more than 4,000 meters above sea level, Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.
The Transportation Department can provide a six-hour notice of the highway closure, Weintraub said. “And staff at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say they can issue a warning at least 24 to 48 hours in advance if lava appears to be threatening the road,” he added.
According to the US Geological Survey, the rate of lava has slowed in the days since the eruption and it could take at least two days for lava to reach Saddle Road.
In case of emergencies if the road is closed, there are hospitals and first responders on each side of the island, Weintraub said, noting that “significant coordination” already exists between hospitals in the state.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation is monitoring the situation and response plans are in place if the highway needs to be closed, according to a statement earlier this week. The department also shared a preliminary plan for the possibility of closure.
There is no threat to the properties, but air quality could be compromised
Despite the simultaneous eruptions of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, less than 34 kilometers apart in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Governor David Ige has maintained that the Big Island is still safe to visit. And the park reported that no eruptions threaten homes.
“The eruption site is high up on the mountain and it’s in a relatively isolated location,” Ige said.
However, state health officials have warned of potential air quality issues, including ‘vog’, or volcanic smog.
Residents and visitors can expect “vog conditions, airborne ash and sulfur dioxide levels to increase and fluctuate in various areas of the state,” the Hawaii Department of Health said.
Volcanic gas, fine ash and Cabellos de Pele (strands of volcanic glass) could be blown by the wind, the US Geological Survey said. A field team found Cabellos de Pele through older lava flows, it said on Wednesday the geological survey, adding: “Hairs deposited many kilometers from active vents by the windblown eruption column.”
Children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems should reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing and reduce exposure by staying indoors and closing windows and doors if vog conditions develop, the Health Department said.
The governor acknowledged the potential for airborne hazards and said officials are monitoring air quality across the island.
“The concern is about dangerous gases from the fissures. And the most dangerous is sulfur dioxide,” Ige said Wednesday. “The observation of the volcano must occur at a distance. It’s not safe to get close.”
While no evacuation orders have been issued, Ige said he signed an emergency proclamation as a “proactive” measure.
Erupting volcanoes also in Alaska
More than 3,000 miles to the north, Alaska officials are also monitoring two erupting volcanoes in their state.
Both Pavlof Volcano and the Great Sitkin Volcano are experiencing low-level eruptions in the remote Aleutian island chain, according to Cheryl Searcy, a shift scientist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
“Pavlof has been erupting for over a year,” Searcy told CNN in a phone interview from Anchorage. “Approximately 15 months of activity, longer than any of the previous eruptions.”
During that time, Pavlof, which sits at 2,500 meters, has not produced a high ash cloud, which does not pose a threat to aviation, Searcy said.
As for the Great Sitkin Volcano, lava is still erupting from its summit crater, according to a report from the state volcano observatory. Searcy noted that the 1,700-meter Great Sitkin has also been active for quite some time.
The researchers are also keeping an eye on three other volcanoes that have shown signs of upheaval, including Semisopochnoi, Takawangha and Cleveland volcanoes.
Overall, Alaska has more than 40 active volcanoes that straddle the Aleutian Island chain.
CNN’s Sara Smart, Paradise Afshar and Dave Alsup contributed to this report.
Source: CNN Espanol