County prepares to reopen lava-viewing area as new flow nears pali
Hawaii County officials are planning to reopen a lava-viewing and parking area if a lava flow that began last month reaches the Pulama pali and becomes visible from Kalapana, something that could happen soon or not at all.
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Hawaii County officials plan to reopen a lava-viewing and parking area if a lava flow that began last month reaches the Pulama pali and becomes visible from Kalapana — something that could happen soon or not at all.
Visitors will also be able to trek along a newly constructed gravel access road to get a closer view of the flow as it heads toward the ocean.
Geologists at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on Thursday released new photos of the lava flow, which could enter the northern edge of the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, above the pali, today.
The lava has been moving southeast at a rate of about 110 yards a day since last week, and has advanced about 3 miles from the east slope of Puu Oo since the latest episode of the Kilauea eruption began May 23.
The last time lava was visible from Kalapana was in 2013, which is also the last time lava entered the ocean.
The current flow is following a path similar to the 2011 Peace Day flow, which entered the ocean in November 2012.
Matthew Patrick, a geologist at the observatory, said lava flows are notoriously erratic, so it’s hard to predict when or whether the lava will become visible from Kalapana.
The flow is also on the far side of the Peace Day flow from Kalapana, so the higher ground of the old lava flow might initially block views of the current flow, he said.
Since 2013 the county has spent more than
$10 million to build a gravel road through a lava field to reconnect Highway 130 to Chain of Craters Road as an alternate route for Pahoa residents threatened by a 2014-2015 lava flow. That flow had threatened Highway 130, which connects Pahoa to Hilo, but stopped before reaching the road.
County interim Civil Defense Administrator Ed Teixeira said the county will allow visitors to park at the viewing area and walk at least 3 miles to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park boundary to get a closer look at the lava flow.
Teixeira said county crews have begun to prepare the lava-viewing area site for reopening and will be hiring a private security service to monitor the area, should the lava become visible from the viewing area.
After the lava flows over the pali, it will reach a coastal plain.
At some point, if the lava continues to advance toward the ocean, it will cross the new access road, Patrick said.
How far the lava advances will depend on the terrain, development of a tube system that allows the lava to move quickly to the front without cooling, and the rate of the flow.
“The question is whether it (the lava flow) will stagnate on the coastal plain or advance to the ocean and make an ocean entry,” Patrick said.