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Mauna Loa lava could block key Hawaiian highway

Many people on the Big Island of Hawaii are bracing for major upheaval if lava from Mauna Loa volcano slides across a key highway and blocks the quickest route connecting two sides of the island.

The molten rock could make the road impassable and force drivers to find alternate coastal routes in the north and south. That could add hours to commute times, doctor’s visits and freight truck deliveries.

“I am very nervous about it being cut off,” said Frank Manley, a licensed practical nurse whose commute is already an hour and 45 minutes each way from his home in Hilo to a Kaiser Permanente clinic in Kailua-Kona.

If the highway closes, he anticipates driving two-and-a-half to three hours in each direction. Manley fears he might lose pay if an accident or other traffic disruption along an alternate route delays his arrival.

The lava is erupting at a rate of 50 to 100 cubic yards per second from a single fissure, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The flow is oozing slowly at a rate that might reach the road next week. But its path is unpredictable and could change course, or the flow could stop completely and spare the highway.

The slow-moving flow was coursing about 2.7 miles from the road Friday, U.S. Geological Survey scientists reported.

A shutdown could also affect major astronomy research at the summit of Mauna Kea, a 13,803-foot peak next to Mauna Loa that is home to some of the world’s most advanced telescopes.




Photo: USGS
17 hours ago