East Hawaii News

June 27 Lava Flow Afternoon Update – 10/30/14

October 30, 2014, 1:45 PM HST
* Updated October 30, 1:48 PM
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The June 27 lava flow that has traveled just over 13 miles from Puʻu ʻŌʻō  is currently 470 feet from Pahoa Village Road and 0.47 miles from Highway 130.

During an 11:30 a.m. media briefing with Hawai’i County Civil Defense, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawai’i Electric Light, Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira made note that the activity currently taking place is very sluggish and inactive.

“It [the flow] hasn’t moved more than a few feet since this morning around 6:30 a.m. Most of the activity is up slope. There are breakouts and activity above Apa’a Street, near the transfer station area, as well as on the surface further up on the lava pad,” Olivera said in relation to the stalled lava front activity.

Additionally, the breakouts initially discussed Wednesday remain relatively inactive. The breakout on the south side of the flow has not moved. The front of that breakout point continues to be 100 feet from the nearest structure. The breakout point on the north side that was moving somewhat perpendicular to the actual flow has also been fairly inactive, as of Thursday morning.

Burning in the area has been limited to vegetation, however, in the past two days, other materials have burned. According to officials, the materials, including tires and metal that were once burning, have now been engulfed in the lava and no longer pose a burning threat.

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Although the leading front of the flow has remained relatively slow and inactive over the past couple days, Michael Copeland, a geophysicist with HVO, thinks it doesn’t mean things can’t start up again. He explained during the briefing how the current activity is not an unfamiliar characteristic of Pahoehoe lava flows.

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“The way Pahoehoe tends to advance is with these fits and starts. A flow begins to inflate and there aren’t going to be any breakouts. It will actually thicken over time as lava comes into the flow but is not released through small lobes. Then, a piece of the flow front or margin will break open and there will be a surge of lava that comes out of it, a bit like pressure being released. The flow will deflate slightly as it feeds one of the outbreaks, then the outbreak will cool and the flow will start to thicken again,” Copeland explained.

“You will also see some interactions with small scale topography, for example, if it reaches a flat area, the flow will tend to expand and fill that flat area before it advances down slope again,” Copeland continued. “The type of activity we have seen with the flow over the past two days are also the kind of things we see in other places on Kilauea where Pahoehoe flows have gone through.”

With the flow nearing main roadways, and its advancement rate slowed, precautions are being considered when it comes to Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130. Olivera noted that safety measures will be taken in consideration as to when Highway 130 would close.

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It was predicted that should the flow continue in its current path and direction, it could cross Highway 130 between the area where Apa’a Street would meet the highway if it was a through street and where the Post Office Road extends onto Highway 130.

Olivera noted the importance of understanding the possibility of inaccuracies in attempting to predict a timeline of when the flow might cross either of the main roads in the area. With flow movement rates continuing on with such great variety, it’s likely predictions on estimates will become outdated upon additional updates on flow pace.

The Hawai’i Electric Light pole that was initially impacted continues to stand and is currently still on the grid. Rhea Lee of Hawai’i Electric Light noted that the utility company is taking all necessary precautions to ensure that communities in the area do not lose power, should lava impact both transmission lines in the area.

In addition to preventative measures, Hawai’i Electric Light is also planning on providing generators in the lower Puna area that could be connected to the grid and provide power if communities initially lose it.

“Should both transmission lines become inoperable, we have relocated one of our large diesel generators and will be relocating a second one very shortly, in the next few days, to an area that is in lower Puna. Those large diesel generators will be able to be connected to the grid and provide electricity to the part of Puna that is cut off,” according to Lee.

Roadblocks are being maintained as Pahoa Village Road from Apa’a Street to the Post Office Road remains closed. Additionally, National Guard personnel and troops are on the ground assisting with the roadblocks and conducting safety and security patrols.

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