PAHOA>> The public will be able to view the cooled portion of the Pahoa lava flow starting Wednesday, even as another finger of lava continued advancing toward a shopping center and a gas station there said it would shut down.
Malama Mart Gas N Go said it would close at 6 p.m. It plans to remove fuel from underground storage tanks and remove equipment from the station over the next three days.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira has said the gas station would fill its tanks with water and firefighting foam after shutting down.
Lava from Kilauea volcano is currently on course to hit a shopping center that includes the gas station in about a week. Lava was about 1 mile from the shopping center after having moved forward about 275 yards overnight.
The supermarket in the shopping center — Malama Market — has already announced it will close on Thursday. A natural foods store will be Pahoa’s only supermarket after Malama Market closes. The shopping center also has an auto repair shop, a pharmacy and a hair salon.
Oliveira noted the businesses in the shopping center provide important services to the community. They are also among the area’s major employers, he said.
“We’re trying to support the businesses being operational as long as it’s safe to do so and to postpone any closing of the businesses until the very last minute,” he told reporters during a conference call.
He said these interests have to be balanced with the need utilities have to protect or remove critical infrastructure before the lava arrives.
Public access at the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station where lava oozed through a fence and onto asphalt in November will begin Wednesday from 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Access to the lava viewing area will be limited to the transfer station and nearby Apaa Street where lava crossed the road in October.
The transfer station access will be closed on Christmas and New Years Day, he said.
The flow crossed onto private property nearby which will not be open to the public, he said.
The viewing will be open seven days a week temporarily with limited parking, he said.
There’s also discussion underway to open up a public viewing location if and when the lava crosses Highway 130, Pahoa’s main throughway.
There’s still a great deal of uncertainty about when the lava might reach the center and what it could hit. The lava could smother one structure in the complex or cover them all, Olilvera said Monday.
Oliveira says the county has been in touch with the merchants about evacuation plans. The county hasn’t yet advised them to leave.
Lava has been threatening Pahoa town, which has a population of about 900, for months. In October, it burned a house and covered part of a cemetery but stalled just before hitting Pahoa’s main road.
It later started flowing from a different spot.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.