Pahoa Village Road reopens, Puna lava flow breakouts upslope still active and advancing

Puna lava flow evacuation advisory lifted for Pahoa Village Rd residents as crews prepare to reopen street
Published: Nov. 23, 2014 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2014 at 5:34 PM HST
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Photo courtesy Bruce Omori of Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery / Paradise Helicopters
Photo courtesy Bruce Omori of Extreme Exposure Fine Art Gallery / Paradise Helicopters
Image source: USGS
Image source: USGS

PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials reopened Pahoa Village Road between Apaa Street and Post Office Road at Noon Wednesday, saying reduced risks and hazards associated with the Puna lava flow allow for traffic and access through the area to resume.

Officials are asking motorists to exercise caution and drive carefully because heat-protective designs are still in place around several utility poles. They're also asking drivers to not stop or park along the roadside or in residential driveways to attempt to view the lava flow.

"Please respect the privacy of the area residents and do not trespass on private property to view the lava flow," said Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.

Oliveira says Hawai'i County Police department and National Guard personnel will be operating in the area to help support traffic flow and ensure public safety.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense officials say Puna lava flow breakouts in the ground crack system near the former geothermal well site remain active. They say the most down slope breakout is located approximately 3.2 miles up slope of the Apa'a street area.

USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say between Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the leading edge of the lowermost breakout advanced by about 250 yards along the north and west margins of the now inactive earlier flow.

Officials say none of the breakout activity poses any immediate threat to area communities.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira has lifted the evacuation advisory for residents downslope of the Puna lava flow. The decision comes as crews prepare to reopen Pahoa Village Road by Wednesday afternoon. Barricades along Apaa Street and at the intersection of Kaohe Homesteads and Old Cemetery Road will remain in place due the proximity to where the lava flow first crossed the street on October 25 – but the blockades along Pahoa Village Road, where the lava stalled within 480 feet, are coming down.

Families have expressed concern about traffic congestion, their driveways being used as parking lots, and their yards turning into lava viewing areas. Oliveira says officials are working to expedite public access at the Pahoa Transfer Station for people who are interested in seeing the lava, but in the meantime they're asking the community and visitors to please respect the privacy of the residents living along Pahoa Village Road. He says Hawai'i County Police and National Guard troops will maintain presence in the area to keep traffic flowing and ensure no one trespasses.

Officials say they want to make sure the public understands their decision to reopen the road and lift the evacuation advisory is based on the fact there is no immediate danger to residents in the area. However, they say there is no indication the lava flow has stopped. They say they're scaling back to provide the community with some normalcy for now due to the change in activity upslope, but they're still carefully monitoring the situation and will keep the public updated and be ready to respond should the situation change again.

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