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


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.


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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