PAHOA, hawaii » One of three alternative emergency-access routes in and out of the Pahoa area will open Saturday as the Kilauea lava flow continues toward the area’s main highway.
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi announced that Railroad Avenue will open to traffic at noon. A ceremony prior to the road opening will commence around 10 a.m.
Opening the alternate route before lava crosses over Highway 130, the area’s main throughway, gives the community time to adjust to the new road, county officials said.
County and state road crews completed work on the two-lane emergency access route in September. Other emergency routes that have been prepared are the one-lane coastal Old Government/Beach Road and Chain of Craters Road — which previously was overrun with lava.
The speed limit on Railroad Avenue will be 20 mph, and the compacted gravel road is suitable for sedans, SUVs, small trucks, vans, buses and delivery trucks, county officials said.
Meanwhile, lava continued to move at a slower pace toward Pahoa Marketplace and the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road on Friday.
An overflight Friday showed the flow advanced about 130 yards since Thursday and was about 0.8 mile from the intersection.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists said the flow split into two branches, and while one appeared to have stalled, the other would reach Pahoa Marketplace on Christmas Eve if it continues to follow the steepest-descent path.
However, Civil Defense officials said the lava is not an immediate threat to residents.
"We’re just watching the activity on the flow going forward and trying to remain optimistic that we might see a slowdown or pause or stall," Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said.
Meanwhile, numerous businesses in the marketplace closed this week, including a gas station, a grocery store that employs 83 people, and family-owned Pahoa HouseMart Ace Hardware. Longs Drugs in Pahoa will close Saturday.