HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many on the Big Island are coming up with backup plans in case Saddle Road closes if the lava from Mauna Loa breaches the highway, from couriers to hospitals, they are preparing for this possibility.
According to the United States Geological Survey, if the lava from Mauna Loa continues on its path it has a high probability of hitting Saddle Road, a key transit route for some Big Island residents.
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Hawaii County representatives from science and emergency response communities brought a collective update on the impacts of Mauna Loa’s volcanic activity on the third day of the eruption Wednesday, Nov. 30.
While the behavior of lava can be unpredictable, the USGS said the fastest time that the lava could reach Saddle Road would be two days.
The Daniel K Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road, is the main artery connecting communities in Hawaii Island County and the lava is inching closer to that vital road.
The Big Island Courier Service Owner John Larson said they service banks and hospitals. They are preparing to reroute drivers if needed but they said it will add time to their drive time and could face heavy traffic congestion.
According to officials, lava is now 3.6 miles away from Daniel K. Inouye Highway, an important transit path between east and west Hawaii.
“It could certainly affect everybody. So we’re hoping that lava flow stops,” Larson said. “It’s going to be double the time on the road. And, you know, that might have to affect my pricing and everything else. So it is very concerning.”
At Hilo Medical Center, meetings have been underway over mitigation plans if the highway does get shut down. The hospital’s public affairs director, Elena Cabatu said they are advising staff to make arrangements in case they have to stay overnight at the hospital.
Cabatu said, “It’s everything from the dog, to making sure the house has enough food and supplies in the event that our staff has to stay at the hospital because there’s other staff that is having a hard time reporting to the hospital.”
Cabatu said they will have other routes available for medical transport or for staff, but they keep in mind those routes will take longer.
HI-EMA officials said the lava continues to move very slowly towards Saddle Road.
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Officials are keeping a close eye on the direction of the lava flows while Mauna Loa continues to emit Pele’s hair in several places in the Saddle Road area.