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Civil Defense: Lava flow front ‘relatively cold’

    A breakout occurs from an inflated lobe of the June 27th lava flow on Sunday morning, November 2, 2014. Scattered breakouts like this, which took place about 200 meters (218 yards) upslope of the stalled leading edge, have been common over the past few days and are filling in low points behind the flow front.
    A pahoehoe toe oozes out of the northern margin of the June 27th lava flow in thick forest, about 328 yards upslope of the leading edge of the flow Saturday.
    A few small breakouts remain active near the transfer station, seen at lower right. One breakout, active for several days now, is slowly creeping toward the southern edge of the transfer station Friday.
    Lava from the lobe that was active in the forest below the P?hoa cemetery overcomes a fence marking private property late Friday afternoon.
    A Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist maps the margin of the June 27th lava flow using GPS Saturday. Mapping on foot like this can be difficult in thick forest due to downed trees covering the edge of the flow.
    A methane explosion in the ground adjacent to the flow margin threw these blocks of older lava, some up to half a yard in diameter, a distance of several yards onto the flow surface. Just to the left of the geologists is a crater of disrupted ground, with overturned blocks of older lava up to a yard in size.
    Sluggish pahoehoe breakouts were present along the south margin of the June 27th lava flow on Saturday morning about 109 yards upslope of the leading edge of the flow.

The front of a lava flow threatening Pahoa on Sunday remained stalled 480 feet from Pahoa’s main street, where it’s been since Thursday night and is now “relatively cold,” Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said after both flying over and walking the area.

Several breakouts behind the front of the flow continued to move perpendicular to the flow at a rate of 5 to 6 yards per hour, but were “relatively quiet” Sunday, Oliveira said. 

The breakouts are widening the flow and could eventually merge with the stalled flow front, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said Sunday morning.

While the flow showed little activity Sunday, it did ignite macadamia nut trees and other foliage on an agricultural lot that’s been threatened since Monday. But the lava posed no current threat to the farmer’s warehouse and residence, Oliveira said.

Since the lava crossed Apaa Street into Pahoa more than a week ago, it claimed a 10-foot-by-15-foot utility potting shed that it burned on the agricultural property early Tuesday morning and an open air cattle shelter on Friday.

While the front of the flow remains stalled, the flow itself is “still receiving lava” from its source 13.5 miles away at Kilauea Volcano, said Mike Poland, a geologist from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The flow that began June 27 is part of a larger eruption that has gone on for nearly 32 years, Poland said.

“We don’t see any indication of it stopping any time soon,” Poland said.

With the flow stalled 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road, Poland said breakouts could reroute the path into another direction but “there is no indication of that” yet.

Police continue to investigate a resident’s report Friday that a man with a clipboard posed as a government official behind police blockades and asked to conduct an assessment of the woman’s property, Oliveira said.

Pahoa has a “sizable homeless population” and it’s easy to get to the lava area through the rural community, Oliveira said.

“There are some indication he may have been a resident” and could have been a homeless person hiding in the area, Oliveira said.

No government official is going door-to-door to conduct damage assessments, Oliveira said. He urged residents to ask for identification if they are suspicious and to call police if they see questionable behavior.

Any officials in the area will have government identification and will be driving government vehicles, he said.

One of the many questions about the man with the clipboard, Oliveira said, is “how would they get through the road blocks?”

Police plan to investigate the fake inspector, Oliveira said. 

A lobe of lava moving downslope of the Pahoa Cemetery merged with the north margin of the main flow and was advancing at a rate of 4 yards an hour Saturday. The front of the lobe was about 219 yards from the stalled flow front. 

Another lobe in a forest area near the Pahoa Transfer Station stalled at the margins, but breakouts are occurring in the flow interior, Hawaian Volcano Observatory geologists said.

In a pasture below the Pahoa Cemetery, another breakout expanded slightly at the margins, but is still about 109 yard from a house next to the pasture and had not advanced significantly Saturday.

On the south side of the flow, an active breakout was being constrained by an artificial barrier Saturday. The front was about 55 yards behind the stalled flow front.

Authorities have alerted about 50 households in Pahoa they should be prepared to evacuate.

Oliveira said overnight rain reduced the smoke coming form the lava flow.

Lava has been spilling down the flank of Kilauea volcano toward the northeast since June.


Star-Advertiser reporter Craig Gima and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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