PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County Civil Defense officials say the Puna lava flow has exited a forested area and is entering open grasslands after burning through a tree line and pushing forward approximately 60 yards since Thursday. Officials say the narrow flow front is moving northeast with very little burning activity along the flow front leading to improved smoke conditions in the area. During their overflight assessment Friday morning, officials say they observed a second short and narrow breakout along the north side of the flow front, approximately 30 yards behind the leading edge.
USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say other small breakouts also continue along the tube system upslope. Experts say that although the advance rate appears to have slowed from about 130 yd/day to around 65 yd/day in the last 48 hours -- there is still a significant lava supply coming from the Pu'u 'O'o crater vent, which is running through the lava tubes to the flow front and heading directly toward Pahoa town.
Hawaii County Civil Defense officials say currently all lava flow activity does not pose an immediate threat to area communities.
Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.
Officials also want to remind people that the flow is not visible and cannot be accessed from any public areas. The Ka'ohe Homesteads subdivision is still restricted to property-owners and residents only.
More details tonight on Hawaii News Now.