Hawaii County prepares to scale back emergency operations as eruption winds down

Hawaii County could scale back Mauna Loa operations in “couple days” based on eruption slowdown
Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 7:34 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 5:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the Mauna Loa eruption winds down, Hawaii County officials say no major changes will be made to the Old Saddle Road viewing area — just yet.

But depending on the eruptive activity, they could start scaling back operations on a staggered basis in a “couple days.”

About 20 members of the Hawaii Army National Guard are scheduled to serve at the site in the Pohakuloa Training Area through the first week of January.

Since Dec. 7, the soldiers have been aloha ambassadors and traffic enforcement, helping thousands of visitors move along a 6.5 mile road from Gil Kahele Recreation Area to Pu’u Huluhulu lot.

Alert level for Mauna Loa volcano downgraded to ‘watch’ as eruption wanes

The area is part of a U.S. Army base and military officials worked with Hawaii County to offer the route for people to safely stop and view the Mauna Loa eruption.

The viewing area also allowing traffic to keep moving on Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

“I would say we had about 99% compliance. Everybody has been really shown aloha for not just for what we’re asking but with each other as well,” said Maurice Messina, of Hawaii County Parks and Recreation.

They are also on hand for emergencies — like when an unexploded ordnance was discovered by some hikers and sparked concern about the safety of the military training site,

“PTA has been around for a long time. And there’s all sorts of munitions all around the place,” said Maj. William Keahi, who is leading the Mauna Loa mission.

“They have done excellent work in clearing the areas so there are portions that are safe, but they’re still things that are old that they haven’t found ... (and) I would rather not have someone find it, unfortunately.”

“The military drills up there all the time,” added Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator. “They have their impact areas ... so they’ve put in safety measures already.”

And while the lava is no longer expected to reach the highway, the National Guard will provide support as long as they’re needed.

“Besides our wartime mission, you know, the fight and win our nation’s wars, all of those skill sets translate over to our state mission. So that’s a great thing about being a National Guard, we serve our community,” said Department of Defense Hawaii Adjutant General Ken Hara.