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Viewing recommendations for Mauna Loa

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This image, taken during a helicopter overflight on the afternoon of November 29, shows the advancing flow front from Mauna Loa. This flow was erupted from a vent high up on the Northeast Rift Zone and is flowing to the north. USGS image by L. Gallant.

For the first time since 1984, Kīlauea and Maunaloa are erupting side-by-side which is expected to draw an influx of visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park who hope to see this rare event.

The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority provided the following updates:

Recommended sites to view the eruption:

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park launched a new “Eruption Viewing” page on its website, which provides recommendations for safe viewing.

  • Lava from Kīlauea and a night glow from Maunaloa is currently visible from many areas and overlooks surrounding Kaluapele (Kīlauea caldera) within the park. All visitors are reminded that viewing conditions can change at any time depending on eruptive activity and weather conditions such as fog or rain.
  • Consider factors such as viewing experience, long waits and crowds, hiking ability, and available time when selecting where to view the eruption. Check out the park map and download the new NPS mobile app to help you navigate during your visit.
  • The Daniel K. Inouye Highway (a.k.a. Saddle Road) has become a popular route for viewing the Maunaloa lava flow. However, please note that no stopping or parking is allowed along the highway between mile marker 16 and 31 at any time. The Gil Kahele Recreation Area, about mid-way between the east and west ends of the highway, is open with parking and restrooms.

No stopping or parking on Daniel K. Inouye Highway between Miles 16-31 – Hawai‘i County issued a supplemental emergency proclamation on Nov. 28, 2022 at 9:25 p.m. stating that due to eruption activity and spectator interest creating road hazards on Daniel K. Inouye Highway, it is “prohibiting all vehicles from stopping and/or parking on Daniel K. Inouye Highway at any time between the 16 mile marker and the 31mile marker, except as permitted at designated parking lots.”

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Maunaloa Road, the summit and high-elevation areas remain closed – The main section of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park remains open. For notices from Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, click here.

Air quality impacts – The Hawaiʻi Department of Health advises the public to be prepared for air quality impacts due to the Maunaloa eruption. As of Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. HST, permanent air quality monitoring stations across the state report that air quality remains normal. However, the eruption could cause vog conditions, ash in the air, and levels of sulfur dioxide to increase and fluctuate in various areas of the state. Conditions are changing rapidly, and poor air quality may be very localized. Hawai‘i residents and visitors are advised to be prepared for and aware of the surrounding conditions, and how they may react to poor air quality or vog. In the event of voggy conditions, the following precautionary measures are advised:

  • Reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing. Avoiding outdoor activity and exercise during vog conditions can reduce exposure and minimize health risks. This is especially important for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic lung and heart disease.
  • People with asthma or a chronic respiratory disease should always have medications available. Daily prescribed medications should be taken on schedule.
  • People experiencing health effects should contact their medical provider as soon as possible if any symptoms develop, as respiratory conditions might worsen rapidly in heavy sulfur dioxide or vog conditions.
  • Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If an air conditioner is used, set it to recirculate. If you need to move out of an impacted area, turn on the car’s air conditioner and set it to recirculate.
  • Face masks (surgical, cloth, KF94, KN95, N95) do not provide protection from sulfur dioxide or vog. However, they can be effective in outdoor environments in reducing inhaled hazardous particulates associated with falling ash and Pele’s hair.
  • Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Vog and air quality updates are available through the:

Q&A from the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority

Q: Should travel plans to the Hawaiian Islands be postponed or cancelled?

A: There is no need to change travel plans to any of the Hawaiian Islands at this time. Maunaloa is located on Hawai‘i Island, the southernmost island of the main island chain. Travel to the other islands – Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i – is unaffected by the eruption.

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Q: Should travel plans to Hawai‘i Island be re-routed to the other islands?

A:  There is no need to change travel plans to Hawaiʻi Island at this time as its two major airports – Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO) – are operating normally. However, it is highly recommended that you check with your airline on the status of your flight.

Q: Is this eruption a danger to people on Hawai‘i Island?

A:  As of 6:30 a.m. on November 28, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms that lava has exited Maunaloa summit and can be seen on the northeast flank. The northeast flank is not populated and does not pose a threat to any communities at this time.

Residents and visitors staying in communities downslope of Maunaloa should have emergency preparedness plans ready in the event an evacuation becomes necessary. Visitors staying in short-term vacation rentals should contact their hosts for more information. The major resort areas of Kailua-Kona, the Kohala Coast, and Hilo are not immediately downslope of the eruption.

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Q: Is there a danger to people with breathing problems from the ash emitted by the eruption?

A:  People who suffer from asthma, emphysema, COPD, or other types of breathing problems should take precautions to avoid the ash and vog that are characteristic of volcanic eruptions. This would include either staying indoors or monitoring how the wind is blowing so as not to be caught in an area where ash and vog are heavy and could impair the ability to breathe normally.

Q:  Is this eruption of Maunaloa unusual?

A: The last time Maunaloa erupted was 38 years ago in 1984. According to the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park website, Maunaloa has erupted 33 times since 1843— averaging once every five years. Over a longer period of time, the past 3,000 years, it is estimated to have erupted once every six years.

To put things into further context, Hawai‘i Island is the youngest and most active of the Hawaiian Islands in terms of volcanic activity. Kīlauea is the youngest and most active volcano on the island of Hawaiʻi, and one of the busiest in the world. Radiating out from the summit, Kīlauea has two rift zones stretching to the east and southwest. These rift zones host most eruptions that occur outside of the summit. The East Rift is historically the more active of the two, most recently erupting from January 1983 to August 2018.

From May to July 2018, a massive eruption on the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea relieved magmatic pressure under Halemaʻumaʻu, causing the crater to collapse and expand from 280 feet (85m) deep and 0.5 miles (0.8 km) wide to 1600 feet (487m) deep and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide.

Then in 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists confirmed a growing lake of water inside Halema’uma’u crater. Never before in modern history had there been water visible at the summit of Kīlauea in the form of a lake. But on December 20, 2020, the ten-story deep lake was boiled off when lava re-entered Halemaʻumaʻu during the summit eruption of 2020. It stopped again in May 2021, then Kīlauea began erupting again on September 29, 2021. It has been ongoing ever since.

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