Lava flow's new leading edge advances 70 yards toward Pahoa fire & police stations

Published: Dec. 22, 2014 at 1:34 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2015 at 4:46 PM HST
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Courtesy USGS webcam
Courtesy USGS webcam
Courtesy USGS webcam
Courtesy USGS webcam

PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawai'i County Civil Defense says while the original Puna lava flow remains stalled, a breakout along the north side of the flow continues to be active and has advanced down slope about 70 yards since Saturday. They say the new flow front is approximately 0.4 miles from Highway 130 to the west or mauka of the Pahoa Police and Fire stations.

USGS geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the lobe that broke out about 765 yards upslope of the stalled tip earlier this week had advanced 430 yards from January 13th to January 16th -- becoming the new leading edge. HVO scientists say two other breakouts along the north margin approximately 1-1.5 miles upslope are still active, but remain sluggish and showing little signs of advancement. They say the breakout has entered a drainage area leading to a path of steepest-descent that could cross Highway 130 about 0.6 miles south of the Maku?u Farmer's Market.

Smoke conditions Sunday were moderate with a light northeast wind blowing the smoke in a southwest direction. Officials say light rain was occurring in the area and is expected to help with fire and smoke conditions.

Nearly 500 acres were scorched this week by brush fires that were sparked by the Puna lava flow. Hawaii Fire Department personnel and equipment are still on scene and monitoring conditions. Officials say all fires have been contained within fire break perimeters. They say burning activity is limited to hot spots and flare ups within those breaks, but there is currently no fire threat to area residents or properties.

Experts say the stalled flow front is about 0.5 miles, or 880 yards, upslope of the Highway130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection, and about 580 yards or 0.3 miles from the Pahoa Marketplace.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says current activity does not pose an immediate threat to area communities.

The Railroad Avenue alternate access road closed to all traffic on Wednesday. Director Oliveira says the closure is necessary to allow for road maintenance and to preserve the road until it is needed.

“We appreciate everyone's cooperation and understanding with this closure and assure the community that the alternate access roads will be opened well in advance of any threat or impact of the lava flow,” Oliveira said.

The state Health Department has installed three temporary air quality monitors to measure levels and the data they're collecting is available online:

. Two monitors are currently located in Pahoa and another is in Leilani Estates, but officials say they can be relocated as the lava flow moves or additional breakouts occur.

The University of Hawaii has also developed a model to forecast the lava flow smoke in Puna, which is also available online:

officials recommend residents in smoke affected areas avoid outdoor activities -- and anyone with respiratory illness or heart disease -- along with older adults and children are urged to avoid smoke exposure.

Several businesses in the Pahoa Marketplace have begun evacuating, as a result, officials have asked drivers to be prepared for increased traffic and large vehicles in the area and proceed with caution. The area's largest supermarket, Malama Market, along with one of three gas stations that serve the community are already closed. Long's Drugs, the only pharmacy in Pahoa, also closed. Officials said Aloha Petroleum has taken the appropriate steps to remove fuel from the underground storage tanks and remove equipment from the station. However, Oliveira said the company will hold off on adding water and firefighting foam to the underground tanks until officials are absolutely certain it is headed that direction. He said the delay will help expedite a return to services if the direction of the lava flow shifts.

Director Oliveira says he understands why businesses are making the choice to voluntarily evacuate at this time, but wants the community to know the merchants have all committed to returning as soon as they can.

“Even though the timelines may have changed and may continue to change, the businesses have an interest to protect their services and inventory so they're doing what they can. Every single one of the businesses has stated that they are committed to returning and restoring normal business operations as soon as it's safe to do so," said Oliveira.

Hawai'i County officials plan to close the old Pahoa Transfer station as public access site for lava viewing on February 1, 2014 in order to restore the area and return it to service. Hawai'i County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira says alternate areas are being reviewed but officials have not selected a new location at this time.

Public access for lava viewing at the old Pahoa Transfer station remains open, but effective Friday, the hours of operation were adjusted to 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Officials say this better reflects the peak hours of visitation. The transfer station will close to the public on Tuesday, January 27 and Thursday, January 29to accommodate two school groups of students who were displaced by the flow and have not yet had the opportunity for a private tour of the area.

Officials said an estimated 1,000 people passed through for an up close look at the stalled pahoehoe flow on the first day. Governor David Ige has also visited the site, leaving an offering on one of the hardened lava flows in the parking lot. Officials say cars will be allowed to park along the Hilo side of Apa'a Street and tour buses have permission to drop off passengers at the station. Access will be limited to safe walking areas around the lava and not on top of the pahoehoe flow itself.

Officials say if resources need to be redirected to address safety or traffic concerns with the current flow, they may need to reassess and shut down. Residents are asking all visitors to please respect private property and also be aware of the children who walk to and from school.

Hawai'i County Civil Defense and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory personnel are continuing to monitor flow activity and say residents down slope will be kept informed of any changes in advancement and status.

For the latest Civil Defense message, go For more information, contact Hawai'i County Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031.

Pahoa Marketplace current status (as of Tuesday, January 6)

Staying open for now:

· Puna Community Health Center (Urgent Care)

· Pahoa Fresh Fish

· Jungle Love

· Aloha Coast Realty

· Paradise Business Center

· Supercuts

· No. 1 Chinese BBQ

· Mighty Sushi

· Pahoa Propane

· Burger King


· Eyeland EyeDoc

· Credit Union Hawaii

· Malama Market

· Ace Hardware

· Long's Drugs

· Lex Brodie's Tire

· Subway

· Malama Gas 'n Go

· Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii

· Pahoa Properties LLC

· Edward Jones

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