Many people on the Big Island of Hawaii were preparing Saturday for a major upheaval if lava from the Mauna Loa volcano reaches a key highway and blocks the fastest route connecting the two sides of the island.
The molten rock could make the road impassable and force drivers to seek alternate coastal routes to the north and south.
That could add hours to travel times, doctor visits and truckload deliveries.
According to the geologist Sergio Almazán, “the plume of sulfur dioxide due to the #eruption of the #volcano #MaunaLoa has reached western North America and according to the latest forecast of #CopernicusAtmosphere will cross the US and Mexico towards the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. Via @CopernicusECMWF”.
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Lava, with unpredictable path
The lava is slowly advancing at a rate that could hit the highway within the next week. But his path is unpredictable and I could change direction or the flow could stop completely and save the road.
The slow-moving stream was running about 2.7 miles (4.3 kilometers) from the highway on Friday, US Geological Survey scientists reported.
There are more affordable housing options on the east side of the island, where the Hilo County seat is located. But many jobs in resorts, construction and other industries are available on the west side, where Kailua-Kona is located. Saddle Road, also known as Route 200 or Daniel K. Inouye Highway, connects the two communities.
The state Department of Transportation took action Thursday to remove potential traffic obstacles on the North Coastal Route by reopening one lane across the Nanue Bridge that was closed for repairs.
Hilo is also one of the main ports on the island, where a wide variety of goods arrive by ship before crossing the island by truck.
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Impacts that are expected
Hawaii County Councilwoman Susan “Sue” LK Lee Loy, who represents Hilo and parts of Puna, said she is concerned about large trucks crossing aging coastal bridges.
“It’s going to take a lot to rethink how we get around on the island of Hawaii,” he said.
There are more of 200,000 Big Islanders. Amid throngs of tourists, delivery trucks and travelers forced to reroute, Harrison said he couldn’t imagine the congestion.
“It might even be faster to fly to Honolulu,” he said of the hour-long flight. “There is no line at the Hilo airport. Flying, seeing the doctor, coming back would actually be faster than driving.”
A shutdown could also affect important astronomical research at the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4,207-meter (13,803-foot) peak next to mauna loa which houses some of the most advanced telescopes in the world.
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