Since Mauna Loa’s eruption on November 27, 2022, U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa Training Area is actively taking precautionary actions and preparing the installation for potential impacts. Additionally, PTA remains proud to continue its long-standing partnership with Hawaii County, the community, and other agencies to stay abreast of volcanic activities and take proactive measures to keep the community safe.
“Since day one, we’ve had a representative in the Hawaii County’s Emergency Operations Center in Hilo to provide support as needed,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “It helps to have someone in the room to relay important information back to PTA, and vice versa, and have face-to-face interactions with our partners.”
Most recently, the Army and Hawaii County partnered to execute the Traffic Hazard Mitigation Plan (THMR) on Daniel K. Inouye Freeway, opening a 4.5-mile portion of PTA along the Old Saddle Road to help alleviate the traffic and serious safety concerns. Motorists were parking along the civilian highway, causing extremely dangerous situations. Operations went smoothly on the December 1 opening and as of December 8, more than 20,000 vehicles and approximately 50,000 people have utilized the THMR located largely on PTA There is no doubt that this action, which is the result of long-standing relationships and trust, has alleviated the traffic and safety risk along DKI Highway.
“We are humbled to have come together with our State and Federal partners to find a potential solution to the ongoing safety concerns along Saddle Road,” said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. “The lava viewing route wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for PTA,” added Roth.
To underscore the danger that existed on the highway, since the eruption began, PTA has responded to five serious civilian vehicle accidents on DKI. PTA is the first responded for the Saddle region, which is another example of how PTA supports the community. The public is urged to obey County guidelines by not parking on the side of the road and reducing their speed.
The PTA Police Department is working in conjunction with the National Guard assigned to be at the THMR to ensure public safety, that they stay off the lava rocks and not wander into training areas.
The American Red Cross is another PTA partner, where we hold a Memorandum of Understanding to provide space for emergency supplies storage at PTA, among many other things “We store backup supplies of cots, blankets and other supplies at PTA so we can move extra supplies in any direction,” says Marty Moran, Hawaii County Red Cross Disaster Program Manager. “We moved some supplies to Hilo in case Saddle Road closes.”
On December 1, the lava flow breached a remote training area in the most southeastern area of PTA and
took out a portion of a fence. When safe, the fence will be fixed. There is no danger to the installation at this time, and cautionary measures are in place to keep everyone safe.
The installation has taken several measures to ensure the safety of those working at PTA, such as daily 100 percent accountability, and providing safety goggles and face masks to keep everyone safe. Pele’s Hair – a fine volcanic ash formation – has been discovered at PTA. Those required to work outdoors have sulfur dioxide (SO2) monitors, are instructed to provide hourly reports of SO2 levels, and immediately depart from an area and return indoors if the air quality levels on the monitors read at an elevated level.
PTA is keeping the installation and community informed through emails, social media posts, and media interviews. The public is urged to get information from official government sites to get factual and accurate information.
“PTA is centrally located on the island which puts us in a great situation to support communities throughout the entire great Island of Hawaii,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Cronin. “We are honored to continue our support for the community – it is so important to us.”