December 2 — With all of the excitement surrounding the Mauna Loa eruption, the impact of people trying to get a glimpse is causing major traffic problems. Hawaii Island Mayor Mitch Roth is reminding the public about the safety rules.
On Tuesday, November 29, the Hawaii Fire Department responded to an incident around 9:05 p.m. Six patients were said to be involved, two needing medical transport for minor injuries. A medic on board said the injured patients were idled along the shoulder when they were hit as they tried to pull back onto the main roadway.
Hawaii police confirmed 14 citations were issued Tuesday night, and police will continue to give out tickets to those who park along mile markers 16 to 31 on the highway. A primary concern is people walking across the road and cars pulling out in front of traffic.
Mayor Roth said, “People are bringing their kids up, and 60 mph and kids and cars on the highway are just a recipe for disaster.”
Parking along Saddle Road remains off-limits, but that hasn’t deterred people from trying. There is one designated parking area off a military training facility (Pōhakuloa Training Area), but being on federal land and a poorly-maintained road are two issues.
As of Thursday morning, December 1st, a new route was worked out with the state and Pōhakuloa Training Area. The entry to the 4.5-mile, one-way route is across from Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area, with its exit at a junction point on the highway just before the Pu‘u Huluhulu volcanic cinder cone near the Maunakea Access Road.
Lava viewing will be constrained to the route, which provides clear visual access to the mountain and the ongoing lava flows. Parking also will be allowed on the side of the road; however, only on the right side, and no vehicle can remain in the area for more than 90 minutes. Still, the best option for visitors is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which remains open 24/7. “You get two volcanoes for the price of one. You have one Halemaumau (Kilauea), and you’re looking up at Mauna Loa and seeing the eruption up there. It’s quite spectacular,” said Roth.