Some Native Hawaiians believe Mauna Kea’s summit is sacred. The summit also has the best conditions for astronomy in the Northern Hemisphere.
Staff from existing telescopes on the summit meanwhile traveled up the mountain in seven vehicles to secure their facilities as two storms approached.
The observatories negotiated access through law enforcement, said Jessica Dempsey, the deputy director of the East Asian Observatory.
Some staff moved telescope domes away from the direction of prevailing winds. Others disabled systems so they won’t get as damaged if there’s a prolonged power outage.
The National Weather Service has forecast Hurricane Erick will pass south of Hawaii later this week. Meteorologists said Tropical Storm Flossie will likely approach the Big Island from the east early next week.
Astronomers haven’t been able to view the skies with the existing telescopes for the past two weeks amid protests.
Dempsey said the observatories haven’t been able to resume viewing because they still must notify law enforcement if they need to take vehicles up to the summit.
“And so at the moment, it remains that we cannot get all of our staff up, as well as our contractors and vendors, that we need to get up on a daily basis in order to return to operational state,” she said.