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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Kaʻū News Briefs, Tuesday, Nov. 29 2022

View of the Mauna Loa eruption before dawn Tuesday morning from Hwy 11 between Pāhala and Volcano at Mile Marker 34.
Photo by Tanya Ibarra

KAPĀPALA FOREST RESERVE AND 'ĀINAPŌ TRAIL AND CABIN ARE CLOSED to the public. State Department of Land & Natural Resources made the announcement Monday night, following closure of Mauna Loa Forest Reserve and Kipuka ‘Ainahou Nēnē Sanctuary for at least 90 days. Division of Forestry & Wildlife Hawai‘i Island Branch manager Steve Bergfeld has the discretion to close additional areas impacted by the ongoing Mauna Loa eruption, as needed. He also closed Unit J of the Kapāpala Game Management Area. "No one should be accessing Mauna Loa at this time. Our sole focus is on public safety, which depends on where lava ultimately flows,” said Bergfeld.

Lava flow view from Saddle Road Tuesday night.
Photo by Sarah de Silva

    On Monday, officers from Hawai'i Police Department and DLNR Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement set up and began manning a roadblock at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway (Saddle Road) and Mauna Loa Observatory Access Road. Above the roadblock, on Monday, Bergfeld got a glimpse of the lava flow which he estimated at about one-mile-long. Lava appeared to be flowing slowly from the mountain’s caldera, which is continuing to send large plumes of gas and ash high into the sky. Much of the 50,000-acre Mauna Loa Forest Reserve is covered in lava from previous eruptions. Later Monday evening, the lava crossed the Mauna Loa Observatory Access Road.
    On Tuesday, the state announced its plan to close the section of Saddle Road from above Kaumana in Hilo toward the Mauna Loa Observatory access road, should the lava continue to approach Saddle Road, possibly as early as Wednesday. By Tuesday afternoon, USGS reported the flow about 4.5 miles from

Forest Reserves are closed to the public
around the Mauna Loa Lava Flow from
Saddle Road to Ka'u. Photo by Zach
Saddle Road. USGS also confirmed that that lava is no longer active in Moku'aweoweo Caldera, and there is no lava erupting from the Southwest Rift Zone and no lava flowing toward Kaʻū. The plume for from the Northeast Rift Zone is being blown to the North. Sulfur dioxide emission rates were approximately 250,000 tonnes per day, as measured on Monday.
    DLNR's Bergfeld and his staff said they are concerned that if lava begins flowing the opposite direction and into the Puʻu Makaʻala Natural Area Reserve, years of restoration work could be destroyed. Puʻu Makaʻala has been fenced to keep feral ungulates out to create habitat for numerous endangered Hawaiian forest birds and to re-establish native vegetation. It’s much too early to tell if the eruption is impacting other natural or cultural resources in the forest reserve. There are numerous other State forest reserves and natural area reserves on both sides of Mauna Loa. DOFAW reported that its teams will continue monitoring lava flows as they occur. Bergfeld said everyone’s top priority is protecting life and property.
    USGS also announced new webcam views of the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa at: https://

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THE MILOLI'I CIVIL DEFENSE MEETING IS CANCELLED for this Saturday, Dec. 3. It was designed to update and talk story with the community on the possible eruption of Mauna Loa. Now that the eruption is ongoing and on the other side of the island, the Miloli'i meeting has been delayed, according to Hawai'i County Civil Defense.

THE EVACUATION SHELTER SHUT DOWN at Kaʻū District Gym on Tuesday following confirmation that lava is not threatening the southside of the island. Red Cross, Civil Defense and Department of Parks & Recreation staff called it a good drill for any potential disaster. The gym was built with federal funding  to be Kaʻū's regional disaster shelter. The shelter opened earlier this week when some residents were leaving their homes, fearing a quick lava flow from the steep slopes of Mauna Loa to the ocean. 

USGS photo taken from Saddle Road on Tuesday shows lava flows moving northeast downslope of Mauna Loa from the
Northeast Rift Zone eruption. USGS photo by David Free

AN EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION BY THE GOVERNOR HAS BEEN ISSUED. Gov. David Ige said: "We're thankful the lava flow is not affecting residential areas at this time, allowing schools and businesses to remain open. I'm issuing this Emergency Proclamation now to allow responders to respond quickly or limit access, if necessary, as the eruption continues."
    The disaster relief period is in effect through Jan. 27, 2023, unless terminated or superseded by separate proclamation.
    Hawaiʻi Department of Health is advising the public, particularly on the northeast side of the island and across the channel to Maui, to be prepared for air quality impacts due to the Mauna Loa eruption. DOH noted that COVID face masks like KN95s do NOT provide protection from sulfur dioxide or vog. However, they can help reduce inhaled hazardous particulates such as falling ash and Pele's hair, when walking outside.

 A view of fissure 4 erupting on the Northeast Rift Zone of Mauna Loa, taken on Tuesday morning. Fissure 4 formed at approximately 7:30 p.m. Monday. On Tuesday morning fountains there were 5-10 m (16-33 ft) tall. USGS photo by F. Trusdell 

    The governor also noted that flights to Hawaiʻi Island resumed their normal schedule: "Hawaiʻi Island is open to visitors, and it is safe to view the volcano from a distance. Please respect our community and avoid closed areas, residential neighborhoods, and no parking zones."
    Roadside parking is prohibited along much of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway because of the danger from high-speed traffic. Parking is permitted only in designated areas and illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed or towed to protect public safety. The road is expected to be closed between upper Kaumana and the Mauna Loa Observatory access road as early as Wednesday, as the lava approaches the highway.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at wwwkaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/04/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html.