Lava marches to­ward ocean

County: No plan to re­build emer­gency road if it is cov­ered by flow

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By TOM CALLIS

The lava flow from Ki­lauea’s Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent doesn’t ap­pear to be wast­ing much time get­ting to the ocean.

As of Tues­day af­ter­noon, the flow had trav­eled about half­way across the coastal plain with about a mile of ter­rain sep­a­rat­ing it from the is­land’s edge, ac­cord­ing to the Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory.

“The flow front is still ad­vanc­ing at a pretty good clip,” said HVO ge­ol­o­gist Matt Pa­trick, adding it had trav­eled about 700 me­ters in the past day.

The flow front is stay­ing rel­a­tively nar­row as it bor­ders higher ter­rain cre­ated by ear­lier flows, help­ing to has­ten its advance.

Pa­trick said lava could reach the ocean in a “mat­ter of days” if it keeps this pace. But, he cau­tioned, “There’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity it could stall and maybe widen, and that would slow it down.”

Be­fore it reaches the ocean, the flow would meet the emer­gency route con­nect­ing Kala­pana and Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park. The route, mainly re­stricted to pedes­trian and bi­cy­cle ac­cess, is cur­rently be­ing used as part of Hawaii County’s lava view­ing area.

Pa­trick said the flow front was just less than a mile

away from the gravel road, which was built in 2014 over por­tions of the for­mer Kala­pana-Chain of Craters Road that was cov­ered by ear­lier Pu‘u ‘O‘o flows.

County Pub­lic Works spokesman Barett Otani said the route cost $5 mil­lion to build over 8 miles, with 80 per­cent of the cost cov­ered by the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

Pub­lic Works Di­rec­tor War­ren Lee said there are no plans to re­build the road again if lava crosses it.

The route was cre­ated in case a sep­a­rate lava flow that threat­ened Pa­hoa in 2014 crossed High­way 130, the life­line for thou­sands of res­i­dents in the area. But, luck­ily, that flow stalled twice short of the high­way be­fore re­set­ting it­self near the vent.

The 2014 flow of­fi­cially came to an end in early June as the cur­rent flow, known as “61g,” di­verted its sup­ply.

The county is pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity at its view­ing area, which starts near the Kala­pana Gar­dens sub­di­vi­sion.

Civil De­fense spokes­woman Kanani Aton said guards es­ti­mated more than 3,000 peo­ple used the view­ing area from 3-9 p.m. Sun­day, the busiest day yet.

There have been a few re­ports of twisted an­kles from hik­ers but no se­ri­ous in­juries, she said.

Aton said Sun­day was ex­pected to be the peak for turnout.

“At this point, it seems like it is ad­e­quate,” she said, re­fer­ring to the park­ing area.

Aton said passes have been pro­vided to nearby res­i­dents to en­sure res­i­den­tial ac­cess is main­tained. Oth­er­wise, ve­hi­cle ac­cess is pro­hib­ited.

“I think at this point, we’re steady and we’re mov­ing along,” she said. “… We just re­ally care about the peo­ple of Kala­pana, and we want to make sure they can get through and with as lit­tle im­pact as pos­si­ble.”

The lava flow reached the base of Pu­lama pali a week ago.

Pa­trick said open ‘a‘a chan­nels could still be seen on the hill­side Tues­day, but some have al­ready started to crust over as the tube sys­tem is ex­tended. The flow re­turns to pa­hoe­hoe lava after reach­ing the base of the pali.

He said that’s be­cause of the change in the slope.

“On the steep sec­tion, it moves pretty quick,” Pa­trick said. “It gets dis­rupted and stressed and turns into ‘a‘a.”

“In many ways, this is still within range of typ­i­cal flow ac­tiv­ity from Pu‘u ‘O‘o,” he added.

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Chan­nel­ized lava flows from the top of the pali to the base of the lava field Fri­day evening in Kala­pana.

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

Lava view­ers stop Fri­day evening at the gate of Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park on the county side of the emer­gency route built over the for­mer Kala­panaChain of Craters Road.

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