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UPDATE: Mauna Kea summit road open to public

MEDIA RELEASE:

MAUNA KEA SUMMIT ROAD CONDITIONS

Road/Snow Information from MK Rangers and Support Group
Road status: Open
Comments: Saturday, December 13, 2008 – 08:33 a.m.

Aloha,

The Mauna Kea Access Road is open to the public.

Mahalo

Public road conditions and snow report message: (808) 935-6268


The summit of Mauna Kea seen from Mauna Lani Drive in Waikoloa.

The summit of Mauna Kea seen from Mauna Lani Drive in Waikoloa. (Photos by Baron Sekiya/Hawaii247.com)

Cars drive down Waikoloa Road with a snow-capped Mauna Kea summit in the background.

Cars drive along Waikoloa Road with a snow-capped Mauna Kea summit in the background.

Enjoying the Snow in Hawaii
Andrew Cooper/Special to Hawaii247.com

Friday morning dawn revealed a blanket of white atop Mauna Kea. One to two feet of fresh snow blanketed the summit, a present from Poli’ahu deposited during the night. The storm and the fresh snowfall immediately becomes the subject of conversation around town, one question to be asked… “Is the road open?”

Mauna Kea is truly unique in may ways, not the least of which is that snow is not uncommon atop the summit at nearly 14,000ft above tropical beaches and palm trees. Here you can sometimes sled, ski or snowboard in the tropics, only 20 degrees north of the equator.

When it does snow, the road is closed quickly. The summit road can be bad on a good day… steep, rough and occasionally deadly. Adding snow and ice creates a situation that can be much worse. Getting stranded in the snow anywhere can be a life threatening situation, high altitude exacerbates the problem. Observatory personnel are instructed to pull out and abandon the summit as soon at the road conditions degrade. The risks of being stranded at the summit are too great.

It is Mauna Kea Support Services, part of the Office of Mauna Kea Management, that is responsible for the road above Hale Pohaku at 9,000ft. It is MKSS personnel who determine when to close the road. They also operate the snow plows that will attempt to clear the road to restore access to the observatories atop the summit. Until road is open the Mauna Kea Rangers will place barricades on the road at Hale Pohaku and control access to the mountain.

Observatory personnel are allowed up first, equipped with 4WD vehicles, snow chains and winter driving training the crews head up to perform vital servicing of observatory equipment. If the weather threatens to dump more snow and ice these visits are short, the crews again evacuating the summit.

4. If the Rangers, MKSS, or OMKM issues an absolute evacuation or road closed order, all facilities must comply. – MKSS Winter Weather Procedures

If the weather has cleared and it is judged the road is passable again, MKSS will begin to allow public access to the mountain. This is what everyone waits for! There is usually a line of vehicles waiting at Hale Pohaku for this moment. Trucks filled with sleds and sno-boards, everyone waiting for a chance to play in the snow. A common activity is to fill a pickup bed with snow, taking a little bit of winter back down the mountain for a snow party.

Observatory personnel do not get to play before everyone else. MKSS policy is that observatory employees who are allowed on the mountain before the general public must be going up for legitimate work related activities, not simply to have fun in the snow.

8. Although the summit road will be closed to the public during snow clearing operations, official observatory vehicles will be allowed to drive up as soon as access is available to each facility. Only official observatory staff is allowed up at this time, and they MUST NOT participate in snow-play activities until after the general public is allowed to drive up the road. – MKSS Winter Weather Procedures

If you do head to the summit to enjoy the snow, prepare properly. Insure your vehicle is in good condition, fully fueled, and drive carefully. Mauna Kea can be dangerous, but with care there should be little problem. Stop at the Visitor Information Station at Hale Pohaku to check on the latest conditions. The Mauna Kea Rangers are available to assist you if you have trouble. Please obey any instructions from the rangers, their job is to insure safe conditions for visitors and to protect the mountain itself.

For current road conditions call the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station at 935-6268 or the Mauna Kea Weather Center Web site at mkwc.ifa.hawaii.edu/current/ro….

A view of Maui near Kona International Airport. Heavy rains scrubbed the air clean and provided a clear view of Maui from the Big Island.

A view of Maui near Kona International Airport. Heavy rains scrubbed the air clean and provided a clear view of Maui from the Big Island.

Work crews at Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii dump rainwater from a building under construction.

Work crews at Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii dump rainwater from a building under construction.

The air free of vog provided a clear view from Iolani subdivision of Kailua-Kona.

The air free of vog provided a clear view from Iolani subdivision of Kailua-Kona.

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