HILO >> The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory now says a lava flow could be a week away from a rural subdivision.
Officials are expected to raise the lava threat from a watch to a warning, said Jim Kauahikaua, the observatory’s scientist-in-charge. He previously said the lava flow seemed to be weeks or months away. The change in the threat level is expected to happen Wednesday or Thursday, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
Once that change is made, Hawaii County Civil Defense will restrict the Kaohe Homesteads to residents and property owners only. Officials would create alternate routes for lower Puna residents, Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said. Beach, Waawaa and Chain of Craters roads have been identified as potential alternate routes if Highway 130 is covered.
After a helicopter overflight Wednesday, officials said steam from an underground crack, an indication of lava activity, is about .7 miles from the eastern boundary of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve.
Lava began flowing into the underground crack on Monday and Wednesday’s overflight showed lava resurfacing about .8m miles from the forest boundary.
"It could continue to be a frustrating experience for all of you," Oliveira told a crowd of about 100 people who attended a community meeting Tuesday at Pahoa High School. The Puna region is still reeling from the damage left behind when a tropical storm made landfall over the area last month.
The homesteads are about a mile from the Kilauea Volcano lava flow. It has covered about eight miles since emerging from a vent on June 27.
Evacuation notices will be issued when the flow is at least five days from reaching the community.
Community meetings are ongoing to update residents about the lava’s path.
Some at Tuesday’s meeting asked about diverting the flow. Oliveira said such efforts could threaten another community and could have cultural implications.
Attempts to block the 1960 flow from Kapoho failed, Kauahikaua noted. "As you notice, there are no barriers there anymore," he said.
He said it’s hard to say how long activity on the volcano’s northeast flank will continue: "We just watch and learn."