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Lava’s advance to Pahoa slows

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The lava’s advance toward Pahoa appears to be slowing with the flow front advancing only 25 yards since Tuesday, Hawaii County Civil Defense reported after a morning overflight Wednesday.

Lava continues to be active at the front. Some of the activity is taking place at breakouts a short distance behind the front and midway along the length of the flow, where lava first entered an underground crack system.

On Monday, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists estimated the flow was advancing to the northeast at an average rate of 81 yards a day, suggesting it could reach Apaa Street on the outskirts of Pahoa by Nov. 1.

That estimate may change with the slowing advancement of the lava front.

The flow remains about .6 miles from Apaa Street and at this point, no homes are threatened and no evacuations have been ordered.

Smoke from burning vegetation in contact with the lava was light to moderate Wednesday in the Kaohe Homesteads area.

County officials said there is no brush fire threat at this time.

Meanwhile, Hawaii County may borrow up to $20 million to pay for emergency road work so Puna residents will have a way in and out of their communities if lava crosses the area’s main highway. The funds would allow the county to cover costs if it is unable to get federal funding for the work.

The county council is scheduled to discuss a resolution on the matter Wednesday, West Hawaii Today reported. The measure says the county intends to authorize a bond issue to reimburse itself for expenses if necessary.

Floating a bond covers a worst-case scenario if funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other sources isn’t available, Deputy Finance Director Deanna Sako said.

“We’re hoping for federal funding first,” Sako said. “We’re still talking to FEMA.”

The county is spending $3 million to open Government Beach Road, which was a one-lane dirt road, and to connect Railroad Avenue between Hawaiian Beaches near Pahoa and Hawaiian Paradise Park.

The latest project, the reopening Chain of Craters Road where it was buried by past lava flows, could cost between $12 million and $15.5 million, a spokesman for Mayor Billy Kenoi said Monday.

The county’s total bond debt as of June 30 was $359.8 million, according to a report from the Finance Department.

If the other roads are cut off, a trip to Hilo from Pahoa would be about 64 miles by the Chain of Craters route, which would take residents through Volcano. The trip using the other roads is currently 17 miles.

The state is also warning Hawaii Island landlords they can’t cancel month-to-month rental agreements to rent units at higher rates to those who are fleeing the path of oncoming lava.

The Office of Consumer Protection says officials received reports those cancelations have been happening as people in the Puna district have left their homes in search of alternate housing elsewhere on the island that’s not in the lava’s path.

The office says landlords are not allowed to terminate an existing rental agreement while there’s an emergency proclamation in effect. The ban applies unless the tenant commits a material breach of the rental agreement or lease or if the unit is unfit for occupancy.

The emergency proclamation was issued on Sept. 5 and was extended to Dec. 1.

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