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National Park Service embraces the Maunaloa magic

People stand on lava rock from a previous eruption near the Maunaloa volcano as it erupts Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.
Gregory Bull
People stand on lava rock from a previous eruption near the Maunaloa volcano as it erupts Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaiʻi.

It's the fourth day of the Maunaloa eruption on Hawaiʻi Island.

Of the four fissures on the northwest slope of the mountain, Fissure Three continues to be the main source of the lava flow -- a flow that is now just 3 miles away from crossing the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that since the lava has hit flatter ground, it has slowed considerably and they expect the flow to move less like water and more sporadically — appearing still one moment, and then moving the next.

The Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency says it has a traffic mitigation plan in place, which includes coordinating with the shipping and transportation industries should the lava cross the highway.

For many, this eruption echoes the 2018 Kīlauea eruption that impacted the Big Island’s Puna District and the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

The Conversation sat down with Jessica Ferracane, the Public Affairs Specialist for the National Park Service, to talk about the eruption.

"It's so exciting that I don't even care about sleep or eating right now I am completely enthralled with this dual the eruption of Kīlauea and Maunaloa and the significance of the power of Pele," Ferracane said.

"In all the things that give your life chicken skin, from inside out, it is one of the most exciting things in my whole life."

She says that while areas around Maunaloa are closed to visitors, that shouldn't prohibit much since the rest of the park is open. She says that the only people that typically go near the summit are experienced hikers.

"Summit is a goal for a lot of backcountry people. So it is impacting those hikers but the vast majority of visitors to the park are really wanting to see and drive around the sights of the Kīlauea Summit, visit the visitor center, etc. All of that part of the park is open," Ferracane said.

Both Maunaloa and Kīlauea are actively erupting, which hasn't happened since 1984.

"I'm not sure as of right now if there's anywhere else on Earth where we have a simultaneous eruption happening from two neighboring volcanoes," she says.

The holiday season is a busy time in the park, regardless of the recent eruptions.

"If lava covers Saddle Road, that will be closed and that will increase the number of not just visitors but also residents coming into the park to see the eruptions and also driving through the park to navigate around the island," Ferracane says.

She also adds that the lava may affect endangered animals on Maunaloa, and a cabin that is infamous among backcountry hikers.

Back on the ground, Ferracane says there are a lot of distracted drivers and she urges safety among those who decide to pull over on the side of the road to view the volcanoes.

She says the best time to view the eruptions is in the early morning, and it gets busier in the late evening.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Dec. 1, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Russell Subiono is the executive producer of The Conversation and host of HPR's This Is Our Hawaiʻi podcast. Born in Honolulu and raised on Hawaiʻi Island, he’s spent the last decade working in local film, television and radio. Contact him at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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