Hawaii's Mauna Loa Volcano Continues Erupting, but So Far Lava Flows Pose No Threat to Local Communities
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Scientists and concerned residents living in the vicinity of Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano are continuing to keep an anxious eye on the world's largest active volcano that erupted on Sunday after 38 years of slumber.
Lava could be seen shooting nearly 200 feet into the air and flowing down the side of Mauna Loa on Monday, but officials with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory insist that nearby communities are currently not threatened by the eruption.
"We've been told that the lava is heading in the best possible direction, which is away from our communities," Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said Monday in a news release. "We'll continue to monitor the situation and will be providing updates to the community regularly."
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An ashfall advisory that had been issued for the island shortly after the eruption began — warning residents that up to a quarter inch of ash could be carried downwind from the eruption — was canceled hours later on Monday morning.
Nevertheless, the National Weather Service has warned that volcanic gas, fine ash and thin glass fibers created during the eruption — known "Pele's hair" — can still be carried throughout the region by winds.
Mauna Loa made headlines on Sunday when the eruption began in Moku'āweoweo, the summit caldera of Mauna Loa, around 11:30 local time, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
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Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey said the volcano — which has been dormant since 1984 — has emerged from its "longest quiet period on record." During that last eruption, the lava flow came within 4.5 miles of the island's largest population center.
In mid-September, Moana Loa began a period of "heightened unrest," according to the USGS, after researchers began detecting 40 to 50 earthquakes per day (up from 10 to 20) around the massive volcano.
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The "elevated seismic activity" forced officials with the Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks Service to close the summit backcountry indefinitely.
Exactly how long the eruptions on Moana Loa could continue is unknown, but local officials are predicting it could last weeks.
"Looking at the past records," Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno told TV station KHON2, "we've had so many previous eruptions. Some lasted a day, but we know they've gone longer. . . At this point, [scientists] are focusing on this [continuing] for a couple of weeks."