According to scientists and officials, Mauna Loa, Hawaii’s largest volcano, is erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years.
There has been smoky ash blowing into the air and orange lava running down steep terrains on the big island of Hawaii due to Mauna Loa, the biggest and most active volcano in the world.
In the evening, lava began spewing from Mauna Loa’s summit caldera, Moku’weoweo.
When the volcano erupted, the Hawai’i County Civil Defense Agency issued a red alert, saying lava flows were contained within the summit area.
A few hours later, the agency announced that shelters had been opened at Kailua-Kona Airport and Ka’u Gymnasium in Pahala.
On Monday, the agency announced that lava had exited the summit and was visible in the northeast rift zone, but that no communities were at risk.
U.S. Geological Survey, which has kept track of the eruption since it began, provided information to the County Civil Defense.
As Reported By The Associated Press, The USGS warned residents on Hawaii that eruptions can be dynamic and lava flows can change rapidly, so they should be prepared for worsening conditions.
A rift zone, such as the one where the lava appeared to be exiting the summit of Mauna Loa, is weakened and makes magma easier to emerge.
The rift zone to the northeast does not pose a threat to the immediate south or west communities, but Hilo and other towns may eventually be in the path of the lava. The AP reports that the lava may take weeks or months to reach populated areas.
The AP said that if the lava shifts to a different rift zone to the southwest, it would only take hours or days to reach populated communities.
In the days leading up to the eruption, seismic activity around Mauna Loa increased.
The County Civil Defense began relaying USGS reports of small earthquakes beneath the volcano in September, and as the days went by, the number of earthquakes increased, triggering tsunami warnings.
As a result of 18 small earthquakes under 3.0 magnitude detected on Oct. 19, the agency issued its first yellow alert.
There have been over 40 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or less on some days, and the status in each warning has been that Mauna Loa is not erupting and, “there are no signs of an imminent eruption” – until last night, that is.
At the southern end of the Hawaiian chain, Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that make up the islands of Hawaii.
When the volcano erupted in 1950, the lava traveled 15 miles to the ocean in less than three hours from the mountain’s peak altitude of 13,670 feet.
It last erupted in 1984, when it erupted for 20 days. Sunday night’s eruption was its longest quiet period ever.