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State gives county section of road for lava evacuation

    Slow-moving surface breakouts have reached the stalled flow front and extended the leading edge of the flow about 90 feet.

The state has turned over 3.68 miles of Chain of Craters Road on Hawaii island to county officials who want to rebuild it as a lava evacuation route.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday issued an executive order that states that the state-owned portion of the 19-mile-long Chain of Craters Road is “hereby turned over to the County of Hawaii, in fee simple, for use as a county highway, and the County of Hawaii shall hereafter be responsible for its repair and maintenance as a county highway.”

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said lava spewing out Kilauea Volcano could overrun lower Puna’s main artery — Highway 130 — in 15 days, cutting off an estimated 8,500 residents.

But the flow has slowed since the original predictions were made, said Steve Brantley, acting scientist in charge for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory.  

“It’s still moving but it’s moving relatively slowly,” Brantley told reporters. “… At this point we’re not confident in being able to make a prediction that far off in time or in distance, either.”

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