Hawaii County Civil Defense closed Pahoa Village Road Monday as a finger of lava threatens to overrun the main street of Pahoa town.
On Monday afternoon, Hawaii County Civil Defense reported the flow advanced 35 yards since 6:40 a.m. and was about 70 yards from the nearest home.
As of 4:30 p.m., according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists, the flow was 560 yards upslope from Pahoa Village Road, and the flow’s width was about 55 yards at the leading edge.
About 40 households in the immediate downslope path of the lava were issued an evacuation advisory, but not an evacuation order, and urged to prepare to evacuate Sunday night. The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Sure Foundation Church in Keaau.
Smoke conditions were light to moderate with tradewinds pushing the smoke south, county Civil Defense officials said. Residents with respiratory problems who live downwind of the flow were warned to take precautions and to remain indoors.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said officials went door-to-door last night and put residents on notice that an evacuation might be ordered in the next three days and maybe sooner. Most residents were understanding and receptive to the message, he said.
Many of them have found places to go or have already left on their own.
Apaa Street resident Imelda Raras said she and her husband are ready to go to a friend’s home in another part of Puna if officials tell them to leave.
“We are still praying,” she said. “I hope our home will be spared.”
The couple in the home nearest to the lava have completed their packing and have taken their personal belongings out of their house, Oliveira said. They continue to go back and forth to their residents to salvage some plants.
Oliveira said the couple invited civil defense officials into their home Sunday and allowed them to go up to their second-story balcony where they have been watching the flow.
“They are disappointed but accepting,” Oliveira said.
The owner of a small anthurium farm about 75- to 100-yards downslope of that residence has also been moving equipment and preparing for the lava flow, he said.
He estimated the lava could reach the house sometime Monday evening.
The closure, at 9:30 p.m., between Apaa Street and Post Office Road, limits use of the Pahoa Village Road to residents only. Others are being told to use the Highway 130 bypass.
Police said Pahoa Post Office Road is now a one-lane road for leaving Pahoa town and no parking is allowed on the road shoulder. Traffic entering the town is limited to the intersection of Route 132/Route 130 near Pahoa High School.
The rate of lava has been inconsistent, averaging 5 yards an hour.
Officials are worried that if lava crosses Highway 130, it will isolate Puna from the rest of the island.
“Puna will be divided into the north side of the flow and the south side of the flow,” said state Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna. “It’s going to be a dividing line that didn’t exist before.”
Raras said they began putting their belongings in storage in September. What they aren’t able to take with them, such as furniture, they’re photographing for insurance purposes.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists said the flow’s rate varied from between 11 to 16 yards an hour until about 3 a.m. Monday, when the flow slowed as it began to widen to about 110 yards wide from about 50 yards wide.
From about 2:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., the advance slowed to 2.2 yards an hour, scientists said.
It moved about 130 yards from 4:30 p.m. Sunday until 7:30 a.m. Monday.
The front is approaching steeper terrain and is expected to speed up Monday afternoon.
The leading edge of the lava flow split into two fingers Sunday, with one finger, to the north, moving down a steeper slope, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists said. The faster lava finger moved through the Pahoa cemetery grounds near the northeast end of a pasture.
The other finger reached slightly steeper terrain in the pasture, just south of the cemetery Sunday afternoon and was expected to rejoin the other lava finger.
Another larger lobe farther upslope, just above Apaa Street, advanced about 55 yards since Saturday.
Civil Defense issued an evacuation notice for area residents Saturday. Not all of them are in the path of the lava but may be at risk to secondary hazards of fire, smoke and methane explosions.
Oliveira said officials will operate like they have in the past in allowing the affected residents to view the destruction of their homes if conditions allow it.
Apaa Street, where lava crossed early Saturday morning, and Cemetery Road remain closed.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.