Hawaii’s cities could be cut off if lava from the Mauna Loa volcano spreads further.
The eruption resulted in a surprise off-season tourism boom for the city of Hilo.
Hotels in and around Mauna Loa are fully booked, while helicopter tours have seen a dramatic increase in sales.
But residents are now preparing for the worst.
It is feared that the city will be divided and areas will be “cut off” due to the lava overflow.
The molten rock could make Saddle Road impassable and require drivers to find alternate routes between the north and south of the island.
“I’m very nervous about it being cut,” said Frank Manley, a licensed practical nurse.
If the road closes, he will have to drive two and a half to three hours in each direction.
The lava is moving at a speed that means it could hit the road early next week, but its trajectory could change course.
On Friday, scientists from the US Geological Survey said the slow stream was moving about 2.7 miles down the road.
The state Department of Transportation has already taken steps to remove potential traffic obstructions on the North Coast Road by reopening a lane on the Nanue Bridge that was closed for repairs.
If Mauna Loa follows historical patterns, the eruption is expected to continue for one to two weeks.
Hawaii Democrats Ed Case and Kaiali’i Kahele sent a letter to President Joe Biden warning that Hawaii County would need ‘immediate assistance’ to keep island communities safe if a lava flow blocks the highway.
Restricted access could impact one of the largest hospitals on the island, located on the east side.
Hawaii County Councilwoman Susan ‘Sue’ LK Lee Loy, who represents Hilo and parts of Puna, expressed concern about large trucks crossing aging coastal bridges.
“It’s going to take a long time to rethink how we get around the island of Hawaii,” she said.
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