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Lava resumes advance toward marketplace

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PAHOA, HAWAII » After almost a week of no activity, the lava flow front endangering a Pahoa shopping plaza advanced about 15 yards on Saturday.

Hawaii County Civil Defense reported the lava started moving again, albeit sluggishly, after an aerial assessment Saturday morning.

At its previous rate of about 110 yards a day to about 490 yards a day, the leading edge of the flow was anticipated to hit the marketplace on Christmas Eve, which prompted the recent closing of a gas station, a grocery store and numerous businesses.

But the lava started slowing down last week until stalling Monday afternoon.

Currently, the front of the flow is about 25 yards wide and remains about 0.6 miles upslope of the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection and approximately 700 yards from the Pahoa Marketplace.

Surface breakouts and activity along both margins on the flow continue upslope and do not pose an immediate threat to area communities, Civil Defense said.

A light wind is causing moderate to heavy vog and smoke to settle across the eastern areas of Puna through Hilo.

And as the lava starts to move again, Hawaii island higher education institutions are moving along and preparing for its effects on students, employees and enrollment rates.

According to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, the University of Hawaii is preparing to help affected students when the lava flow hits the highway.

If lava severs the highway, it will affect the ability of students, faculty and staff to commute to and from UH-Hilo and Hawaii Community College campuses in East Hawaii.

There are about 153 UH-Hilo students and 622 community college students living in lower Puna who could be affected.

The two campuses created a joint information page at to provide updates and resources for students and employees.

Along with the information page, UH-Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney and HCC Chancellor Noreen Yamane have provided weekly informational messages to employees and students, and have worked to identify support services for those impacted by the lava.

These services include counseling; assistance with changing registration whenever possible; identifying on-campus and off-campus resources; allowed withdrawal from class; and where possible provided refunds even after the withdrawal deadline passed; assistance with admissions and financial aid upon re-entry. Faculty and staff have been available and will continue to address questions and concerns at lava community informational meetings.

HCC and UH-Hilo also have worked to find high-speed Internet access points in lower Puna so students could use them to keep up with classwork.

In October, both campuses hosted four counseling sessions for their employees suffering from trauma.

People concerned about access to classes have been asked to contact instructors, department chiefs or supervisors.

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