Puna lava flow breakouts slow, fresh lava continues moving through Pu'u O'o tube

Puna lava flow breakouts slow, fresh lava continues moving through Pu'u O'o tube

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The leading edge of the Puna lava flow remains active even though it has not advanced much since Monday and small breakout flows upslope appear to be slowing down after only progressing forward about 20 yards, according to Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials who flew over the area Tuesday morning. Officials say neither the leading edge of the lava flow and the breakout flow, which is further upslope and to the north, currently pose an immediate threat to area communities.

USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say although the leading edge of the June 27th lava flow has stalled, fresh lava is being supplied behind the front as it continues to move through the tube from Pu'u 'O'o -- however, the volume is low compared to what they measured two weeks ago when the flow advanced rapidly. An HVO overflight on Monday afternoon indicated there are breakouts of lava where the flow first enters the crack system about 5 miles behind the stalled front and also where it exits the crack system about 2 miles back from the front. USGS says at the leading edge of the flow, they also observed two lobes of weak surface activity around 410 feet and 1900 ft behind the front, which are both creeping northeast.

USGS says the June 27th flow front remains stalled 1.4 miles upslope from Apa'a St. and 2.1 miles from Pahoa Village Road. Geologists say the stalled leading edge of the flow is approximately 10.2 miles straight-line distance from the Pu'u 'O'o crater vent. Experts say because the flows near the stalled front are moving very slowly, they are not able to offer a projection of their future movement. The next HVO overflight is scheduled for Wednesday.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says no evacuation is needed at this time and residents will be given adequate notice to safely evacuate should that be necessary.

Officials say smoke conditions Tuesday are light to moderate with light trade winds out of the northeast and a light rain throughout the area. They say there is no fire threat at this time.

County officials have limited access to Government Beach Road to residents only in hopes to minimize delays and disruptions as HELCO crews continue their efforts to install new lines so they can re-route power distribution from north to south should the flow cross Highway 130.

Officials want to remind people that the flow is not visible and cannot be accessed from any public areas. Access to the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision is still restricted to residents and property owners only.

According to USGS, the Pu'u 'O'o vent in the East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano began erupting on January 3, 1983 and has continued erupting for more than 31 years, with the majority of lava flows advancing to the south. Geologists say the June 27th flow is the most recent flow and the first to threaten a residential area since 2010-2011. Experts say on June 27, 2014, new vents opened on the northeast flank of the Pu'u 'O'o cone, feeding a narrow lava flow to the east-northeast. On August 18, the flow entered a ground crack, traveled underground for several days, then resurfaced to form a small lava pad.

Officials say this happened three more times in the following days with lava entering and filling other cracks before reappearing at the surface farther downslope. Lava emerged from the last crack on September 6, forming a surface flow that initially moved to the north, then to the northeast, at a rate of 1,300 ft/day. They say the flow then began to slow between September 12 and 19, averaging about 740 ft/day before stalling on September 22. Breakouts immediately behind the flow front advanced less than 100 ft/day between September 26 and 29.

More details tonight on Hawaii News Now.

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