Two-story lava wall cuts off parts of Highway 137, impacting thousands

Two story lava flow cuts off part of Hwy 137, impacting thousands
Updated: May. 20, 2018 at 9:05 PM HST
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A 20-foot lava flow has cut off part of Highway 137, a critical access point for those wanting...
A 20-foot lava flow has cut off part of Highway 137, a critical access point for those wanting to get in or out of lava affected areas. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The destructive lava flows that have been setting homes, roads, and land ablaze in Lower Puna dealt a critical blow on Saturday night when it created a 20-foot wall of lava on Highway 137.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, the powerful lava flows cut a crucial access point to Lower Puna communities when it crossed the road just south of the major roadway's 13-mile marker. The late-night lava flow forced Big Island police to shut down parts of the highway and implement roadblocks between Kamaili and Pohoiki roads.

One of the only other routes in that area — Highway 130 — is currently only open to residents, and has already begun developing cracks. Authorities installed metal plates on Highway 130 earlier last week, resulting in weight limits for motorists using that route.

The highway closure is expected to impact thousands of residents trying to get in or out of the already isolated Lower Puna communities.

Maui Emergency Management Agency crews are helping Hawaii County with resources, but it's unlike anything many of them have ever seen.

"(Look at) how huge this thing is," said Herman Andaya with Maui Emergency Management, when he first saw the two-story wall of lava. "The magnitude in the flow, and everything."

"I'm speechless," Andaya said.

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