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Hawaii News

New lava vanguard moves sluggishly

  • USGS / HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
    The leading tip of the flow near Pahoa Marketplace remains stalled, but active breakouts persist a short distance upslope. Breakouts were active about 500 meters (0.3 miles) upslope of the stalled tip, and a portion of this activity on the north margin triggered a small brush fire.
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PAHOA, Hawaii » The new leading edge of the Puna lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that was advancing toward the area’s main highway has slowed down significantly during the past few days.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira said Tuesday that the edge — a breakout along the north side of the flow — was active but sluggish, advancing a mere 15 yards since Monday. The leading edge of the breakout was a bit less than a half-mile from a stretch of Highway 130 mauka of Pahoa’s police and fire stations.

Since late June the lava oozing toward Pahoa in Hawaii island’s Puna district has traveled some 14 miles from the volcano’s Puu Oo vent in fits and starts, underscoring the difficulty of predicting what the flow will do next.

In late October lava crossed a country road, smothered part of a cemetery, toppled trees and burned a shed, cattle shelter and tires. It burned a house in Pahoa on Nov. 10.

Last month, before the flow’s front slowed and stalled, it was on course to reach Pahoa Marketplace during the Christmas holiday, prompting several businesses to shut down operations there as a precaution.

The lava has yet to reach the highway, which serves as a transportation artery through the district on the island’s eastern tip.

Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the recent flow pace could change quickly. "There’s not a diminished magma supply, but it is fluctuating," he said.

In addition to the leading edge, officials are watching two breakouts along the north margin of the flow, about 1 to 1.5 miles further upslope, which are active but slow-moving.

In lower Puna the Hawaii County Fire Department is monitoring burning activity touched off by the lava flow. On Tuesday that was limited to hot spots and flare-ups, Civil Defense reported. There were no fire threats to area residents or properties.

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