Officials consider reopening Pahoa Village Road; lava flow inactive downslope
PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County Civil Defense officials say although there is very little activity downslope and the Puna lava flow breakouts near Kaohe Homesteads, Apaa Street and the Pahoa cemetery have not advanced for six days now — there is still evidence that lava is flowing from the vent to the crack system upslope. The nearest surface flow activity and breakouts are approximately 3.6 miles upslope of Apaa Street in the area just below and to the north of the old geothermal well pad site.
Officials say weather conditions Friday morning have limited their access to fly over the upslope areas.
Prior overflights by both Civil Defense and USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory earlier this week revealed a large breakout near Puu Kahaulaea in addition to the more recent breakout near the abandoned geothermal well site. On Thursday, HVO scientists say the lowermost breakout was located approximately 7.5 miles straight line distance from Pu'u O'o, which indicates lava has reoccupied the tube system at least this far from the vent. HVO scientists also observed smoke from burning vegetation along the edges of small breakouts from the June 27th lava-tube system north of the formal geothermal well site.
HVO scientists who conducted a ground assessment of the breakout Thursday say the front of the lobe was about 0.3 miles northeast of the well site and about 1.2 miles west of Kaohe Homesteads. They say the breakouts in this area were covering the existing flow and burning through forest on its margins — though some activity was triggering brush fires and there were frequent methane explosions.
For a second day in a row, Friday morning's Civil Defense report was absent of an assessment of smoke conditions as a result of the lack of burning activity downslope.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says the evacuation advisory for those residents downslope of the flow will continue and residents will be kept informed of the flow status and advancement.
Post Office Road is once again open to two-way traffic. However, Pahoa Village Road between Apaa Street and the Post Office Road will remain closed and limited to area residents only. Officials say access to the businesses and commercial areas of the Pahoa town can be made through the Pahoa Village Road at the intersection of Highways 130 and 132. Oliveira apologizes for any inconvenience the road closure may be experiencing and reminds everyone that the Pahoa town center and businesses are open and accessible.
However, during Thursday night's weekly community meeting in Pahoa — Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said that if there is a continued lack of activity downslope, county officials planned to reopen the currently closed portion of Pahoa Village Road sometime next week. Mayor Kenoi said Apaa Street would remain closed for the time being, but once it does re-open — he plans to provide priority access to students, specifically those from Keonepoko Elementary School whose campus was closed because of the projected path of the lava flow.
Next week Thursday's weekly community lava flow update meeting has been canceled in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. Officials will also be scaling back their presence at the Incident Command Center in Pahoa.
However, Civil Defense, public safety personnel and Hawaii National Guard troops will continue to be operating in the areas off Pahoa Village Road and Apa'a Street round the clock to maintain close observations of flow activity.
More details as they develop on Hawaii News Now.