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Pahoa students view stalled lava flow

    2014 December 8 CTY - Students from Pahoa Elementary School on the Big Island had a chance on Monday to inspect up close the devestation of the June 27th lava flow at the Pahoa Waste Transfer Station. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HAWAII DEPT. OF EDUCATION.

PAHOA, Hawaii >> Crackling sounds resonated under foot while geologists walked along the stalled lava flow along the fence line of the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station on Monday afternoon.

“Lava is sharp, even though it’s not hot,” warned Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. “So be very, very careful. The Band-Aids are back in the car.”

Babb and fellow geologist Frank Trusdell led media through the black mounds of the cooled so-called June 27 lava flow amid the persistent odor of smoke. Downed trees sprawled across the rolling pahoehoe.

This spot is slated to become a public viewing place as soon as next week, but as of Monday, Hawaii County officials were still working out the details, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.

Earlier Monday, more than 300 local students became the first to witness the recent flow. During the tour they could see where lava severed Apaa Street and penetrated the fence around the $3.9 million waste and recycling facility.

Farther up the street, lava had ignited a house and took over a cemetery.

The students also viewed seven different stations hosted by scientists and experts from the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes and Hawaii Electric Light Co.

According to a news release, each station featured hands-on activities, including a video, demonstrations of the speed of the lava and interactive games.

The students also offered a makana, or gift, to Hawaiian goddess Pele at the edge of the now-stalled flow and talked about their feelings about being at a new school. Many of the area’s students were relocated in preparation for the lava flow.

After offering their gift, students touched the fresh lava, still warm below the surface, according to the news release.

The tour ended with a viewing of the lava breakthroughs around the perimeter of the transfer station. Those fingerlike breakthroughs stalled eerily close to the facility.

AnaLisa Yanagi, a sixth-grade teacher at Pahoa Elementary, said her students were “really excited to see it.” Yanagi is teaching students who were relocated from Keonepoko Schools in October and calls the opportunity to see the lava firsthand “really eye-opening.”

She added, “I think it took away the troubles they’ve been feeling. Depending on the child and what they’re experiencing during this roller-coaster ride of change, they all seemed excited to go through this experience together.”

Hawaii County officials extended an invitation last week to students to view parts of Apaa Street and the Pahoa Transfer Station. Tours for 600 more public school students will be conducted throughout the remainder of this week.

Keone Farias, principal of Keaau Elementary School and incoming complex area superintendent for Kau-Keaau-Pahoa, said it was an opportunity for the students to learn about what all has gone into the event.

“I think what they learned is that this episode is so much more than science,” he said.

The new leading flow front had advanced about 250 yards since Sunday and was about 2.3 miles upslope of the area’s main highway near Pahoa Maketplace. According to the observatory website, a Civil Defense overflight on Sunday found that the flow had widened but had advanced very little since Saturday.

The front of the flow is in area where several lines of steepest descent nearly converge due to flat topography and, according to the website, is probably the main factor in the drop in speed. Until the flow passes this area of flat topography, its future path is uncertain.

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