Hawaii’s Mauna Loa erupts, officials warn people to prepare

The world’s largest active volcano has begun to erupt, and while it didn’t immediately threaten communities on Hawaii’s Big Island, officials warned residents it was ready to get worse.

When Mauna Loa last erupted 38 years ago, many of its current residents weren’t there. The U.S. Geological Survey has warned about 200,000 people on the Big Island that the eruption is “very dynamic and can rapidly change the position and progression of lava flows.”

The eruption began late Sunday night following a series of fairly large earthquakes, said Ken Hong, a scientist at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.


Development has accelerated on the Big Island in recent decades, with the population more than doubling from 92,000 in 1980.

Most of the islanders live in Kailua-Kona, to the west of the volcano, with about 23,000 people, and Hilo, to the east, about 45,000 people.

Of greatest concern to officials are several plots about 30 miles south of the volcano, home to about 5,000 people.

A time-lapse video of the eruption from the night showed lava lighting up an area and moving through it like ocean waves.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the eruption moved into a rift zone (where the rocks of the mountain are cracked and relatively weak), making it easier for magma to emerge.

Eruptions from this zone could send lava toward the county seat of Hilo or other towns in eastern Hawaii, but it could take weeks or months for the lava to reach populated areas. there is.

“We are not going to put our foot down on volcanoes,” Hong said. “We need to really see what it’s going to do and let people know what’s going on as quickly as possible.”

The Hawaii County Department of Civil Defense announced that it has opened shelters after reports of people voluntarily evacuating along the coast.

According to Hong, the average Mauna Loa eruption is usually short-lived, lasting several weeks.

“Usually, Mauna Loa eruptions start with the most violent eruptions first,” Hong said. “After a few days, you’ll feel a little better.”

The USGS has warned residents at risk of the Mauna Loa lava flow to review their preparations for an eruption. Scientists were alarmed by a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which last erupted in 1984.

Parts of the Big Island of Hawaii are under an ash fall advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, which says up to a quarter inch of ash can accumulate in some areas.

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii, the southernmost of the Hawaiian Islands.

At 13,679 feet above sea level, Mauna Loa is Kilauea’s much larger neighbour, which erupted in a residential neighborhood in 2018, destroying 700 homes.

Some of the slopes are much steeper than Kilauea, so when lava erupts it flows faster.

A 1950 eruption displaced the mountain’s lava 15 miles out to sea in less than three hours. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa erupts, officials warn people to prepare

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