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Lava flow could reach Pahoa marketplace on Christmas Eve

    The active flow front continues to advance to the northeast

Lava flowing toward Pahoa’s main shopping center and its intersection with Highway 130 could ooze into the area on Christmas Eve.

Advancing about 165 yards since Wednesday, lava is bit less than one mile, about .8 of a mile, from the Pahoa Marketplace area. Lava is now moving at a slower pace than last week.

The slower rate in advancement may be attributed to the area’s flat topography and the increase in breakouts upslope of the flow front. 

“What is likely causing the slow down in the flow advance is the flatter topography and breakouts a bit upslope robbing some of the supply from the flow front,” said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

A helicopter overflight of the flow Thursday showed the front of the flow consists of two closely spaced fingers, both heading to the Highway 130 and Pahoa Road intersection, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists said.

The flow front widened Tuesday and took a slight turn to the north, but is still expected to follow the steepest descent path to the intersection of Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130 near the marketplace, geologists said.

Gov. David Ige is visiting the Hawaii island this afternoon to get an update on lava-related matters

Hawaii County Civil Defense Chief Darryl Olivera is scheduled to brief the governor at about 1 p.m. in Hilo about the flow.

Ige will also visit Keeau High School, meet with merchants at the Pahoa Marketplace and attend a community lava meeting at Pahoa High School at 6:30 p.m.

At the shopping center, Malama Mart Gas N Go closed on Tuesday while Malama Market — the area’s main grocery store — will close Thursday.

The U.S. Geological Survey observatory issued a Volcanic Activity Notice Tuesday night, warning that the flow had been moving at an average rate of 310 yards a day since Dec. 9 and that the steepest descent path leads to the Pahoa Marketplace.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said Thursday it’s too early to tell if there’s been a slow down in the overall advancement rate of the June 27 lava flow as it continues towards the Pahoa Marketplace. 

Since the lava breakout emerged from the main flow near an underground crack system last month, the lava’s advance rate has varied from about 110 yards a day to more than 490 yards a day, averaging 330 yards a day.

“It’s possible the lava could turn east and continue on a path to the area of the marketplace. We’re watching it closely,” Oliveira said. 

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