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Heading to the island of Hawaii? Officials say the Mauna Loa eruption is not affecting air travel or accommodations; however, other factors like air quality may change the way you spend your time on the island.
There were rumblings of Mauna Loa reawakening a few weeks ago. It had lain dormant for nearly 40 years — it last erupted in 1984 — and volcanologists started detecting movement within the world’s largest active volcano in early October.
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The Mauna Loa eruption began just before midnight on Nov. 27. By 6:30 a.m. the next day, lava could be seen flowing down the 13,681-foot volcano toward the center of the island on the volcano’s northeastern side. Thankfully, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, this area is not populated and the eruption does not pose a threat to any communities at this time. In an interview with ABC News, Gov. David Ige said that there’s no reason to change travel plans to the island and that the eruption is happening in an isolated area.
The lava flow is “on the best path it could be on,” says T. Ilihia Gionson, public affairs officer with the tourism authority. “The area it’s flowing towards, there’s not a whole lot there. There’s not currently a threat to any of the resort areas in Kailua-Kona, Hualalai, Waikoloa or Hilo.” He adds that visitors staying outside of resort areas in rentals through such services as VRBO should check with their hosts to learn where they are on the island in relation to the lava flow.
Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as the Saddle Road, traverses the inland area the lava is flowing toward — the road runs east and west — but Gionson says there’s not a threat to the road itself and state authorities are monitoring the situation. Gionson notes that the highway offers one of the best vantage points to see the lava flow, but warns against pulling over and parking for a better view. He says that the county may set up parking areas to view the lava flow, but that visitors should check the tourism authority’s website for guidance.
The eruption caused Southwest Airlines to pause its operations in Hilo, canceling nine inter-island flights between Honolulu and Hilo. Southwest’s inter-island flights resumed as scheduled Tuesday, and for travelers arriving to or departing from the island’s two main airports — Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO). However, it’s best to check with your specific airline for updates before heading to the airport. Hawaiian Airlines, for example, is offering a travel waiver for customers with flights through Dec. 4 who want to reschedule at no additional cost or cancel their flight and receive a credit due to the volcanic activity.
Air quality concerns
The Hawaii Department of Health issued a warning for sensitive groups — older adults, individuals with preexisting respiratory conditions and children — that the eruption may have an impact on air quality.
If potential vog conditions (when the air contains volcanic ash and gases) have you reconsidering outdoor activities, here are a few interesting indoor ideas: