It’s a Winter Wonderland on Big Island’s Maunakea; but roads are unsafe
The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship expects the road to the summit will remain closed for at least the next couple of days.
The recent storm, with winds of more than 100 mph at the summit, sleet, freezing rain and heavy snow created a very hard covering of ice and icy snow along with snow drifts on the Maunakea Access Road. This makes it exceptionally difficult for staff to clear.
The center is working as quickly as possible to reopen the road above the Visitor Station. Once crews are able to clear one lane they will limit access to essential personnel until the road can fully be reopened.
There also is still a High Wind Advisory in effect for Big Island summits until 6 p.m. on Dec. 21, with west winds of 35 to 45 mph and localized gusts of more than 60 mph.
“Our top priority is keeping the public and our employees safe while on Maunakea,” said Greg Chun. “We understand many are eager to head up to enjoy the wintry weather, however until conditions are safe and full access of the road is restored, we humbly ask for everyone’s kōkua and patience.”
The public is asked to remember that the summit of Maunakea can be extremely dangerous. The weather can change rapidly, resulting in severe conditions including freezing temperatures, blizzards and high winds.
Emergency services may be two hours away because of its remote location. Cell phone coverage is unreliable, and there is one public emergency phone on the summit. For everyone’s safety, please heed all directions and precautions from Maunakea Rangers.
In 2021, at least two car crashes were reported after heavy snowfall on the mauna, including an overturned vehicle. There normally is an increase in summit traffic after winter storms. The summit access road is approximately 8 miles long, and the first 5 miles are unpaved with steep inclines, poor traction, narrow sections where two way traffic is not possible, blind curves and rocks on the road.
Everyone is encouraged to act in a safe and responsible manner while on Maunakea and look out and care for others because of the dangerous conditions. Please be respectful of the fact that Maunakea is one the most revered places in Hawaiʻi, and many visit the mountain for cultural and religious practices.