Lava warning issued as flow approaches Big Island subdivision

9pm version: Lava warning issued as flow approaches Big Island subdivision
Published: Sep. 4, 2014 at 3:09 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 4, 2014 at 11:54 PM HST
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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.

The following Civil Defense message was released Thursday at 8 a.m.:

"Daily helicopter overflights and assessments are continuing. Thursday morning's helicopter assessment shows the surface lava flow continues and is moving very slowly in a east/northeast direction. The surface flow has advanced less than 100 yards since yesterday. There continues to be some evidence of subsurface flow activity, which is noted by steam plumes being emitted from the crack system. The surface flow is moving very slowly and does not pose an immediate threat to area residents. The surface flow is located approximately .8 miles southwest or upslope of the Wao Kele Puna Forest Reserve boundary and moving in an east/northeast direction.

Presently, the current activities and flow does not present with an immediate or imminent threat to area communities. Eruption activity will continue to be monitored and additional updates will be provided.

Although the current flow activity does not pose an immediate threat to area communities, residents are encouraged to continue to review their emergency plans in the event conditions change and should an evacuation be necessary.

The public is reminded that the flow cannot be accessed and is not visible from any public areas. Please do not attempt to access the area as there are many cracks and dense vegetation. In addition please refrain from attempting to do so through the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision and respect the privacy of area residents. Enforcement officers of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources will be conducting patrols and reminding persons in the area of the restricted access."

A community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pahoa High Cafeteria. Hawaii News Now has a crew on the way to Puna. Stay tuned for updates online, on-air and streaming on your mobile device.


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