Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, which erupted for the first time in 38 years on November 27, continues to spout hot, molten lava that is likely to reach a major highway in the state unhindered. On Sunday it reached within 2.5 miles of traffic. 

If lava from Mauna Loa slides across a key road on the Big Island, it could block the quickest route connecting two sides of the island. This will be concerning for the people residing on the island as molten rock could make the road impassable and force drivers traveling from north to south to find alternate coastal routes. This could mean being stuck en route to doctor’s visits and lorry deliveries for hours. 

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Officials could have tried and prevented this major inconvenience by trying to block the lava flow. However, they have decided against it due to a number of variables. The US Geological Survey said that lava is unpredictable and it’s entirely possible that it misses the Daniel K. Inouye Highway entirely. The highway is also known as Saddle Road or Route 200 which connects the two communities.

Moreover, Paul Segall, a professor of geophysics at Stanford University said that countries that have tried in the past to redirect volcanic flows have mostly ended up with expensive failures.

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The lava from Mauna Loa is oozing slowly at a rate that might reach the road next week. However, its path is unpredictable and the lava could change course. There is also a possibility that the flow could stop completely and spare the road.

In order to prevent potential traffic obstacles on the northern coastal route, the state Department of Transportation reopened a lane across Nanue Bridge that was closed for repairs on Thursday.