POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 19, 2010
Lava oozing from Kilauea Volcano forced the evacuation of a Kalapana couple and their dogs yesterday and closed within 100 yards of their house — one day after the flow crossed the Big Island's Kalapana access road and enveloped the intersection of Highways 130 and 137, sending up a plume of thick, black smoke.
The couple's two-story home is now landlocked by cooling lava as hotter, more destructive lava inches closer, Big Island Civil Defense Director Quince Mento said yesterday.
He declined to speculate on whether the home would be lost. "When you're dealing with Madame Pele, you don't want to take anything for granted," Mento said. "Things change. They can turn on a dime."
At least four other homes are in the area, but none is immediately threatened, said Mento, who has been driving to Kalapana every day to survey the lava's path.
For people who live in Kalapana, volcanic activity is part of daily life. "If you live there," Mento said, "you're aware of the risks."
The owner of the house in immediate danger had been surveying his property every day until county officials urged the couple to evacuate, Mento said.
The homeowners remain upbeat, even though they realize their house could go up in flames.
"It's unfortunate -- you feel very bad for them," Mento said. "But there's always hope that it could stop."
On May 21, Kilauea Volcano saw its 10,000th straight day of activity, making it the world's longest continuously erupting volcano.
Puu Oo -- or Kilauea's east rift zone vent -- started gurgling on Jan. 3, 1983, and a summit vent on Halemaumau Crater has been erupting since March 19, 2008.
Lava began marching onto the Kalapana access road around midnight Saturday, then took out the intersection of Highways 130 and 137 around 7 a.m. Saturday.
A crowd of "well over 1,000" people continues to stand watch 24 hours a day, even though the previous viewing area was destroyed on Saturday.
"It's now under a couple of feet of lava," Mento said.
The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory posted photos that show lava burning through thick vegetation and covering about 300 yards of highway asphalt.
Earlier in the week, Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, wrote that "a circulating lava pond deep in the collapse pit within the floor of Halemaumau Crater" was visible via webcam, and three earthquakes with magnitudes of 2.9 and 3.0 were recorded below the Big Island.