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Lava piles up behind cool tip

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  • USGS
    Viscous pahoehoe oozed about 405 yards above Apaa Street on Tuesday. This was the most active area observed during Tuesday fieldwork.

PAHOA, Hawaii » Geologists monitoring the lava flow that invaded Pahoa — and then inexplicably stopped Thursday — continue to keep an eye on an area behind the stalled flow front that’s filling with lava.

The tip of the 13.5-mile-long flow that began June 27 out of Kilauea Volcano remains halted in a farmer’s yard and is now cool to the touch.

But about 380 yards behind the tip, an active stretch of lava 650 yards long is "inflating" — or filling with fresh lava. In some spots the lava is growing as high as 12 feet, said Frank Trusdell, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Lava within 10 yards of the flow’s front remains cool to the touch, Trusdell said.

But 50 yards mauka of the tip, "I wouldn’t put my hand down," Trusdell said. "You can stand up and feel the heat radiating."

Otherwise, areas of the flow that had been threatening homes, structures and buildings last week continued to pose no immediate threat for the sixth day in a row, said Darryl Oli­veira, head of Hawaii County Civil Defense.

"It’s been a fairly quiet day," he said. "Nothing really happened."

But with portions of the flow inflating, Trusdell said previous lava flows have proved that anything can happen. "It’s hard to predict," he said. "We just have to wait and see."

Since the lava crossed Apaa Street into Pahoa last month, it overran a Buddhist cemetery, claimed a farmer’s shed, set a stack of tires on fire and ignited an open-air cattle shelter.

The front of the flow remained stalled 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road, Pahoa’s main street.

President Barack Obama’s signing of a disaster declaration Monday authorizes federal reim- bursement of state and county relief efforts to deal with the lava flow.

"We’re optimistic and confident" that the declaration will lead to a "sizable reimbursement," Oli­veira said Tuesday afternoon.

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