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Mauna Loa affects Alaska travel plans to Hawaii

Mauna Loa Eruption
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey
Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2022 shows lava flows moving northeast, downslope of Mauna Loa volcano from the Northeast Rift Zone eruption.

As Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big Island continues to spew smoke and lava into the air, many Alaskans like Tyson Davis are keeping a nervous eye on the volcano.

“We have seven shows from December 1 to the 11, sprinkled all over the Island,” said Davis, who is the lead singer for Blackwater Railroad.

Davis says he and his band will arrive on the Big Island on Wednesday night, and hopes to see the volcano as they land in Kona.

The band plays a mix of rock and bluegrass and seems to have a natural audience in Hawaii. It’s Blackwater’s fifth trip to the Big Island.

Davis says there are a lot of Alaskans in Hawaii in December, not just tourists but also people who take jobs there in the winter.

“We were able to fill up venues with just Alaskans,” he said. “And then Hawaiians started to like our high energy vibe.”

Davis has been tracking the volcano and its impact on various websites.

“It’s a little unnerving, for sure. It’s like earthquakes here in Alaska,” said Davis, who says he and his band are proceeding on their tour as planned.

“The Hawaiian people, they seem not too worried, and as long as they’re not worried. I’m not worried either,” said Davis.

Scott McMurren, an Alaska travel expert, says Blackwater is part of a wave of Alaskans headed to Hawaii.

“I just talked to a friend of mine today. Her whole office has rented a house over there on the Big Island. They’re having a company retreat. This is the thing,” McMurren said.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of travel between Alaska and Hawaii. McMurren says Alaska Airlines has tried to build business back up again with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. It offered one-way fares to Kona as low as $147 that end on November 30.

McMurren says Alaska Airlines will add more non-stop flights to Hawaii in mid-December and offer daily flights at the start of the year.

He says the eruptions could cause flight delays or cancellations, so if you’re going to Hawaii, stay in close touch with hotels and other businesses that are part of your travel plans.

Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.