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The world's biggest active volcano, Hawaii's Mauna Loa, erupts after 38 years

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

For almost 40 years, Mauna Loa has been dormant. But early Monday morning, the Hawaiian volcano began erupting. Jennifer Sullivan (ph) lives nearby.

JENNIFER SULLIVAN: I felt like I had almost fallen out of my bed a little bit. And it was probably about, like, 2 in the morning. And it felt like there had been, like, a little bit of an earthquake.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Her home is in an old fishing village on the slopes of Mauna Loa, which is the largest active volcano in the world.

SULLIVAN: I looked up into the sky. And it was just red, glowing - this deep red coming from the top of the mountain. And it was intense. It was surreal.

INSKEEP: But not unexpected. Wendy Stovall is a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. She says the volcano has been showing signs of unrest for a couple of months.

WENDY STOVALL: As magma moves into the volcano, it fractures earth. And that fracturing of the earth is what is recorded as earthquakes.

MARTÍNEZ: Just like the one that woke Jennifer Sullivan in the middle of the night. And though her house isn't in danger now, she's packing a few bags just in case.

INSKEEP: Volcanologist Wendy Stovall says it's hard to make predictions about what might happen next with this eruption.

STOVALL: We can never speak in absolutes because the volcano is going to behave how it is going to behave.

MARTÍNEZ: And it's disrupting life for Sullivan and her neighbors. Ash and volcanic air pollution have blocked out the sun.

SULLIVAN: Most of us get our energy from solar power. So I am at a - almost like a negative point on any kind of energy right now.

INSKEEP: But Sullivan says for all the inconvenience, she's excited to witness history.

SULLIVAN: It's almost transfixing. It has, like, a weird energy about it. It's an amazing thing to witness.

MARTÍNEZ: Visitors and locals can now visit not one but two erupting volcanoes on the island. Kilauea, just 20 miles away, has been erupting for more than a year now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SABZI'S "CITY JEWELS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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