USGS: Puna lava flow speeds up, could hit Pahoa in 9 days

Puna lava flow speeds up, appears to bypass Kaohe heading toward Pahoa 5PM Update
Published: Sep. 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 18, 2014 at 6:16 PM HST
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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Puna lava flow has narrowed and continues to speed up and could reach Pahoa town in nine days -- that's according to USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, who have been tracking the June 27 Pu'u O'o crater flow for months.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials, who completed a flyover Thursday morning, say it has advanced northeast approximately 400 yards since Wednesday as it continues to move through the upper northwest corner of the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision across vacant forested parcels. Officials say it appears the flow will likely bypass any homes or structures in the neighborhood as it progresses downslope. According to officials, the leading edge or front of the flow is now 50 yards wide. USGS geologists say the lava flow rate has picked up and is now moving approximately 960 ft/day through thick forest. It is now 1.7 miles upslope from Apa'a Street and about 2.3 miles from Pahoa Village Road. Based on USGS assessments, geologists are projceting it could hit Apa'a Street in nine days and Pahoa within 13 days as it makes its way downslope to Highway 130.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says the flow does not pose an immediate threat to area communities and residents will be given adequate notice to safely evacuate should that be necessary. Pahoa residents say the lava flow is now getting close enough that they can see the glow and fires at night from the edge of the Kaohe subdivision. Access into Kaohe Homesteads is still restricted and limited to residents and property owners only.

There is no brushfire threat at this time and all burning is limited to the vegetation that is in direct contact with the flow, however -- smoke conditions were moderate to heavy Thursday morning over the Kaohe area and may vary depending on wind conditions.

Crews are continuing to clear Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road to establish alternate road access in the event Highway 130 is affected by the lava flow. The latest projection from USGS is that the lava flow will reach Pahoa Village Road and then Highway 130 within the next two weeks.

More details tonight on Hawaii News Now. To view photos of the lava flow on our mobile app click on the 'Puna Lava Threat' section.

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