The Mauna Loa volcano is showing signs it may erupt, and officials in Hawaii have told people to prepare to leave in a hurry.
Scientists say another eruption is unlikely anytime soon, but they are closely monitoring earthquakes at the volcano’s summit.
They are occurring due to rising magma flowing below the Earth’s surface. Although earthquakes have become less frequent in recent days, there is a chance that they will return.
Hawaii’s civil defense agency is telling people how to prepare for the worst. They have been told to pack a bag with food, decide on a safe place to go and have a plan to meet up with friends and family.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said “Not to panic everyone, but they need to be aware that you live on the slopes of Mauna Loa. There is a potential for some kind of lava disaster.” .
The volcano makes up 51 percent of the island’s land mass, so an eruption would have a catastrophic impact on much of the island, Magno said.
Mauna Loa is 13,679 feet (4,169 m) above sea level and towers over neighboring Kilauea volcano, which erupted in 2018 and destroyed 700 homes.
Mauna Loa is steeper, so the lava will flow much faster.
Since 1980, Hawaii’s population has more than doubled, from 92,000 to 200,000.
Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, and when it erupted in 1950, lava flowed 15 miles in three hours.
Officials are telling newer residents, who weren’t there when Mauna Loa erupted 38 years ago, to be prepared.
In Ocean View, 220 people attended a community meeting last weekend led by civil defense officials.
However, some residents aren’t as concerned, Bob Werner, who didn’t attend the meeting, said “the biggest concern is that it’s going to be really annoying to drive an hour or two more to get the same things,” he said .
Bar owner Ryan Williams said patrons were used to the warnings and weren’t concerned about the possibility of an eruption.
Magno said the agency is targeting people who live near the volcano’s vents because they would have the shortest time to respond if the threat level is raised to “watch,” meaning an eruption is imminent
The current alert level is ‘advisory’.