PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials say the Puna lava flow has advanced approximately 85 yards since Tuesday, as it continues its steady march toward Pahoa town. USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory estimate it could reach Apa'a Street in Pahoa in two weeks, if it continues moving at its current rate of 390 ft/day.
During an overflight Wednesday morning, county officials say they observed the narrow flow front burning through a tree line and producing a significant amount of smoke. However, smoke and vog conditions in the area had improved Wednesday morning to light to moderate with a light trade wind out of the northeast. Another flyover is scheduled with HVO scientists Wednesday afternoon.
Officials say all lava flow activity does not currently pose an immediate threat to area communities. 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. However, officials say due to the unpredictable nature of the lava flow — residents and visitors are advised to listen for Hawai'i County Civil Defense updates and advisories on the radio.
State Department of Health officials issued an advisory Tuesday urging medically-dependent residents living downslope of the flow's projected route to relocate -- citing the uncertainty of the flow and its possible impact on the community. If the lava flow crosses Highway 130, officials say medical services and supplies will be severely limited and emergency response times may be significantly delayed.
USGS geologists say it has moved downslope approximately 800 yards in the past week. USGS geologists say the flow has widened to about 230 ft. They say the leading edge of the flow is about 1 mile upslope from Apa'a Street along the steepest descent path. USGS says the advance rate of the flow has varied significantly during the past month and their latest projection is subject to change. Scientists aboard Monday afternoon's overflight say they observed active breakouts upslope of the flow front, in the area that lava first entered ground cracks, that were burning forest at numerous spots along the flow margin.
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. Over the past two years, lava flows have also begun moving toward the northeast. The June 27th flow is the most recent of these flows and the first to threaten a residential area since 2010-2011. 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. Lava eventually 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, before slowing between September 12 and 19 to 740 ft/day, then stalling on September 22. New breakouts behind the flow front began to push forward, overtaking the stalled front on September 29 and have continued advancing about 390 ft/day between October 3 and 6.
More details tonight on Hawaii News Now.