East Hawaii News

Advancing Lava Stalled, Breakouts Threaten

December 26, 2014, 1:45 PM HST
* Updated December 26, 2:00 PM
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It has been more than four days since the leading edge of the June 27 lava flow has shown signs of activity or advancement. Daily Hawai’i County Civil Defense overflight assessments and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitoring have shown throughout the week that the once quickly advancing flow has stalled.

The stall doesn’t mean that the threat of lava is over, as activity has been brewing upslope on both the south and north margins of the flow fronts that were recently active and advancing, Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said during a media briefing Friday.

Closest to the flow front that stalled Monday afternoon is a breakout that is about 75 yards to 100 yards upslope from the front edge. Although not advancing very quickly, the breakout is active and has burning activity occurring along its edges and is about 100 yards to 150 yards wide. The flow is also on the steepest path of descent, according to GPS coordinates and ribbon markings that were put up a couple of Saturdays ago to track rates of advancement.

Oliveira said that between Monday and Wednesday, the front edge of the breakout only advanced about 50 yards, according to measurements and coordinates, and remains about 800 yards from the Pahoa Marketplace property line.

“Right now it is moving so slow that when we take the GPS coordinates, they are almost overlapping, because the advancement rate has been so slow. From the air, it is showing almost no advancement, just kind of an active area with burning along the perimeter edges,” Oliveira said.

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Other activity is occurring on the north margin of the flow, about 1.5 miles upslope from where the front of that portion stalled last week. The breakout in this area is not moving away from the flow pad, nor is it advancing, but it is showing activity as it burns vegetation along its edges.

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Various other upslope activity is occurring along both margins of the flow, but nothing that is pulling away from the flow pad or showing threatening behavior.

Oliveira said that during Civil Defense’s morning overflight, a substantial surface breakout was seen in the proximity of the Geothermal Well Pad site, about 3 miles from Highway 130. The breakout, that is about 20 yards wide, appeared to have been very active in the past 24 hours, moving about 100 yards. It also appeared to have already blackened over but showed some bright orange around the crust.

Although many different areas of activity were reported, Oliveira emphasized the sluggish behavior and lack of quick paced movement.

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“It is possible that one of those [breakouts] could become the new flow front at some point, but at this point it is too premature to say if and when that would occur. It is more of a wait and see, watch it, monitor it. We’ll maintain a situational awareness through Civil Defense and fly over every day, possibly twice a day, and continue to maintain close communication with HVO,” Oliveria said.

Smoke conditions can be expected to worsen in the coming week, according to Oliveira, who said that a western wind is to blame for the smoke being blown over the Pahoa area. In talks with the weather service, he reported that smoke conditions are expected to be heavier and worsen next week as the wind continues to follow a similar path.

Currently, smoke conditions are light to moderate and do not pose any immediate health concerns.

As of Friday morning, the flow front that was actively advancing towards the Pahoa Marketplace in recent weeks has stalled. Majority of businesses in the shopping center have closed their doors voluntarily in the past week and half in anticipation of the then advancing flow.

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