Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists say the volume of lava moving toward Pahoa has lessened compared to two weeks ago when the lava flow moving towards the town picked up speed.
In a volcano update posted Tuesday, scientists said the flow remains active, but the front of the flow closest to Pahoa remains stalled and has not advanced since Monday.
Hawaii County Civil Defense said the small breakout flows upslope from the leading edge are also not as active and advanced about 20 yards to the north.
There are two lobes of surface lava about 410 feet and 1,900 feet behind the stalled front, scientists said.
An overflight on Monday also showed breakouts about 5 miles behind the front where the lava enters an underground crack system and about 2 miles from the front, where it resurfaces from the underground system.
"The leading edge, the front of the flow, actually stopped and it was cooling," Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said Monday.
Oliveira said he’s watching that active breakout, which could end up becoming the flow’s new leading edge as it turns east.
While there’s no immediate threat, the lava’s slow-moving activity poses eventual harm to communities in the rural and isolated Puna district.
"It just feels like we’re in lava limbo," said Tiffany Edwards Hunt, who owns a Pahoa surf shop with her husband. "It’s pretty hectic, actually, as far as I’m concerned. It’s really difficult to plan ahead. This is a time we’d be ordering for Christmas and getting stocked up and ready for the Christmas season."
But instead, they’re putting many items on sale to lighten their load, yet they don’t want to leave residents without basic surf supplies such as board wax and leashes, she said.
There’s also the uncertainty of not knowing where the lava flow is headed.
"I’ve gone from completely depressed and deflated and now I’m trying to come up with scenarios on how we’ll use our space if we’re not in her path," said Hunt, referring to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes. "With this breakout to the north, it just kind of feels like she’s expanding her scope a bit."
Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory last week stopped providing estimates for when lava could reach communities because of the slow or minimal activity.
The flow front is about 1.4 to 1.5 miles upslope of Apaa Street on the outskirts of Pahoa.
The cooled, stalled front remains in vacant lots within the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision, Oliveira said.
"This is unique in that it’s slow torture," Hunt said, comparing the lava to other disasters that happen suddenly. "Do we have a couple of weeks? Do we have a couple of months?"