PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has declared a state of emergency for the County of Hawaii as a result of the lava flow heading toward lower Puna, which could potentially reach the Ka'ohe Homesteads subdivision within a week.
The declaration came immediately after USGS geologist Jim Kauahikaua, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, raised the lava threat from a watch to a warning. The difference is significant in that it means a hazardous lava flow is imminent, underway or suspected.
The emergency declaration allows the county to restrict access to certain areas to ease preparation for residents. The declaration does not mean an evacuation has been ordered -- those are separate processes, though officials are urging residents to finalize their evacuation plans and monitor Civil Defense updates closely. The Ka'ohe residents are already being proactive in moving their livestock.
Hawaii County Civil Defense will restrict the Kaohe Homesteads to residents and property owners only. Director Darryl Oliveira confirms officials will create alternate routes for access to lower Puna, which could include Beach, Waawaa and Chain of Craters roads if Highway 130 is covered.
"Only residents will be allowed on the subdivision roads starting today, and we ask that non-residents stay away from the area," Oliveira said. "The lava cannot be seen from the subdivision, and there is no reason for non-residents to be in the Ka'ohe subdivision at this time. This is a difficult and stressful time for Ka'ohe residents, and we ask that everyone show respect and understanding for our Ka'ohe neighbors."
"We are taking this step to ensure our residents have time to prepare their families, their pets, and their livestock for a safe and orderly evacuation from Ka'ohe in the event the flow continues to advance," Mayor Kenoi said.