Where is the Lava Going Now?

Hawaii Volcano Observatory reports that receding lava is now, “barely visible” from the Jaggar Observatory overlook.  The question now: where is the lava going?  As a precaution, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is issuing no overnight camping or back country permits for areas makai of the summit until the scientists have a better idea of what’s happening.

“There was continued deflation at the summit of K?lauea Volcano during the past day, and the rate of deflationary tilt increased yesterday afternoon,” the observatory reported on its Web site.   “The summit lava lake has receded even more so that the lava surface was barely visible from Jaggar Museum this morning. Seismicity beneath the summit and upper East and Southwest Rift Zones remained elevated, with the highest number of earthquakes in the upper Southwest Rift Zone. At the East Rift Zone eruption site, surface flows remained active within about 8 km (5 mi) of the Pu’u ‘O’o vent.”

Park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane said  that lava was still “definitely visible” from the Jaggar overlook, but had dropped 42 feet overnight, to a point about 50 feet below the crater rim. Lava, she said, is normally visible until it falls 70 feet below the edge of the crater.

The back country closures she said, were “strictly precautionary.”  She noted that the park’s vulcanologists were concerned not just about the rapid draining of the lava lake, but also about swarms of small earthquakes which had been happening on the volcano recently.

“The last time something like that happened was in 2011 when the Kamoamoa eruption happened,” she noted.  “It’s problematic for somebody to be out there camping and we’d have to close Chain of Craters Road in the middle of the night and evacauate everyone.”

No one is certain, yet, where the lava that’s leaving the summit crater will go this time.  Park officials will re-evaluate the closures when they know more.  Meanwhile, visitors are free to visit the lower park and its trails during the daytime, but overnight stays are not a forbidden.


Civil Defense Lava Meeting Cancelled in Order to Cancel Lava Emergency

From Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira:

I apologize for the late notice however we will be postponing the Pahoa Community Meeting scheduled for tonight at 6:30 at the Pahoa High School cafeteria. The County and our partner agencies are meeting with FEMA this morning to discuss the closing of the lava flow incident and there will be many questions asked as to what the implications may be with regards to the various projects and expenses incurred in response to the lava flow threat. It is our goal and desire to provide the community with this information and to share how the federal reimbursement program will apply to the projects and costs. Realizing that for some questions FEMA may need to internally have further discussion as well as for some of the applicant representatives at the meeting there may be a need to provide additional information or to review with their executives; it would be prudent to obtain the final answers and outcomes and share that information at the community meeting. Therefore the meeting will be postponed pending the final outcome of the public assistance program application review and approvals. We apologize for this inconvenience and look forward to sharing all information with the community.

Thank you,

Darryl J. Oliveira

New Web Site Tracks Traffic in Lower Puna

Something good may have come out of the long lava crisis in Lower Puna.  On March 25, the same day that Hawaiian Volcano Observatory lowered the volcano threat level from “Warning” to “Watch,” the County of Hawaii opened a new Web site:  punatraffic.com, a free Web based traffic monitoring service for Lower Puna’s Pahoa to Kea`au traffic corridor.  The site is designed to provide commuters with up-to-date information on “Traffic conditions along several transportation corridors that may be affected by the June 27th Lava Flow, including HWY 130.”  The site accesses 30 traffic cameras that refresh their images every three to five minutes.  Color codes on a map tell commuters which sections of the corridor between Kea’au and Pahoa  have “Free Flow,” “Moderate Traffic,” “Heavy Traffic,” or “Stop and Go” conditions.  The “dashboard” page of the site gives estimated travel times for each of eight sections of highway 130 between its junction on  Kahakai Blvd. in Pahoa to its junction with Milo Street, about midway along  and Kea`aua-Pahoa Bypass.  The site also includes live feeds to several cameras monitoring conditions on the lava flows themselves. Icons on the site’s traffic map inform viewers about the locations of traffic incidents, traffic congestion, road construction, adverse weather conditions and “special events.”

“The traffic monitoring system is a part of the County’s overall plan to monitor
traffic flow that may have to be re-routed as a result of the June 27 Lava Flow”  said a press release from the county about the new Web site.  It noted that  “The cameras are government property and specifically programmed to only work
with government equipment. Please kokua and respect this public benefit and

The site also has a page containing links to the Web pages and social media connnections for various state and county agencies, from Hawaii State and County Civil Defense agencies and the Department of Education official sites to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s Twitter feed.

Hawaii Volcano Observatory Downgrades Alert: Any New Threat from Lava Probably “Months Away.”

Hawaii Volcano Observatory has now downgraded the volcano alert level for Kilauea from “Warning” to “watc”h. The  flows near Pahoa are now considered “inactive,” though lava continues to erupt from four breakouts nearer to Pu’u O’o,

“Because the immediate threat from the June 27th lava flow has been reduced, we are reducing the alert level,” read the observatory’s latest update. “Presently, the only active surface lava occurs in four separate breakouts from the main lava tube within three areas in the upper 6 km (4 mi) of the flow field below the Pu’u O’o vent. Lava from these breakouts is moving slowly atop earlier flows and along the margin of the June 27th and the Kahauale’a (2013-2014) flow fields. Based on the rate and trajectory of these active flows, we anticipate that it will be at least months before lava could reach to within 1 mile or 1 week of homes or infrastructure.” At that point, depending on which breakout becomes dominant and on the flows not shutting off entirely, then lava could again threaten either the Hawaiian Acres/Ainaloa area or Pahoa itself.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said there was “little activity in the down slope areas. ” It said the current breakouts “extend from an area approximately 8 miles upslope of the stalled flow fronts to the summit area of Pu’u O’o.”

The ultimate trajectory and path of the lava flow depends on how lava activity evolves in these areas.

But there are important caveats: “At this time, reoccupation of the lava tube that fed lava flows toward the Pahoa Marketplace area is unlikely. Should this occur, however, delivery of lava farther downslope to the currently inactive extent of the June 27th lava flow field could happen more quickly, perhaps within weeks.”  The update also notes,  “This assessment is based on continued lava production at Pu’u O’o at current eruption rates and vent location. Should the eruption rate increase significantly or the locus of eruption shift to a new vent, the conditions of lava flow advance and associated threat could change quickly.”

Pahoa Lava Viewing Area Closing Jan. 31

From Jason Armstrong at Hawaii County Parks and Recreation:

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Parks and Recreation will stop operating the P?hoa Lava Viewing Area at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 31.

Located at the P?hoa Transfer Station, the free viewing area is being shut down so the facility can be converted back to its original use as a public trash-collection site.

It also is closed today, January 27, and will be closed again on Thursday, January 29, so schoolchildren displaced by recent lava activity may take field trips to the viewing area and see the stalled front.

Lava Report: Flow Stalling Again?

Pele appears to be taking a breather again.  Hawaii County Civil Defense reported this morning  that “the original flow front and south margin breakout remain stalled.  The breakout along the north side of the flow [the one that was most advanced and appeared to be headed toward the Pahoa police and fire stations] continues to be active however very sluggish has not advanced since yesterday.”  Flows upslope also appeared to be active but “sluggish” with little forward progress.

So the lava, for now, appears to be nearly stalled out, approximately .4 miles above Highway 130.

Lava Report: Flow Advances Another 70 Yards

Madame Pele is still on the march toward Highway 130, but her rate of travel slowed over the last 24 hours.

Civil Defense reported this morning that the flow’s current leading edge, located above the Pahoa fire and police stations, advanced about 70 yards since yesterday, as compared to 120 yards the previous day. That flow is still listed as approximately .4 miles above Highway 130 Hawaii Volcano Observatory, which has been monitoring the mauka lava tongue that’s been crawling toward a rendezvous with the highway in the Maku`u area, has made no new reports about it since Friday. Civil Defense simply reports that that flow and another mauka tongue remain “active” but “sluggish and showing little sign of advancement.”

Light rains in the area are moderating the dangers from wildfire and air pollution this morning. Civil Defense reports that “All fires that occurred are contained with [in (?)] the fire break perimeters and all burning activity is limited to hot spots and flare ups within the fire perimeters.”  The overall level of smoke and vog pollution has changed from “heavy” yesterday to “moderate” today, and the wind has shifted directions, blowing smoke and vog southwestward, away from Hilo and Lower Puna, although Civil Defense still warns that “Smoke conditions may increase in some areas and individuals who may be sensitive or have respiratory problems are advised to take necessary precautions and to remain indoors.”

Lava Report: Pele’s on the Move Again

The lava flow has a new leading edge, and it’s moving relatively fast.  According to Hawaii Volcano Observatory’s and Hawaii County Civil Defense’s morning reports,  the lobe that recently broke out about 765 yards upslope and to the north of the stalled tip had advanced overnight by about 120 yards, passing the former leading edge and reaching to within .4 miles of Highway 130 in the vicinity of the Pahoa fire and police stations.

The northern flow lobe that broke out from the main flow about 1.5 miles upslope is still active as well, but moving sluggishly. if it continues, it could reach a steepest-descent path that would cross Highway 130 about half a mile south of the Maku?u Farmer’s Market.

The flow activity, combined with dry weather and a southwest wind, continues to generate brushfires in the area between the flow and Ainaloa Subdivision. Hawaii Fire Department units are on scene, monitoring fire activity, and bulldozers are clearing or dressing firebreaks above Ainaloa and between the flow’s leading edge and houses along Highway 130.

Civil defense reports continued heavy vog and smoke in Lower Puna and Hilo.

Lava Report: New Flow Front on Verge of Overtaking Old One

The leading edge one of the of the newer lava breakouts has nearly caught up with the stalled front above Pahoa Marketplace.  The new front is now .6 miles above Highway 13, almost directly mauka of the new Pahoa police and fire stations.  According to Hawaii County Civil Defense, this breakout had advanced about 50 yards since yesterday.

Both Civil Defense and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory report other active breakouts further upslope as well.  HVO singled out a long narrow lobe headed northeast, which had advanced about 50 yards a day during the previous week and could follow a steepest descent path that intersects Highway 130 about .6 miles south of the Maku`u Farmer’s Market.  HVO noted that smoke from recent brush fires had obscured aerial views of this flow, which was about 2.1 miles above Highway 130 as of Tuesday.

“With the ongoing dry weather conditions, brush fire activity related to the lava flow is likely to continue,” noted Civil Defense this morning.  “Hawaii Fire Department personnel and equipment are on scene and monitoring the fire conditions. The fires that occurred yesterday are contained with the fire break perimeters and additional work is being done to improve fire break conditions. There is currently no fire threat to area residents and properties.”  But some  social media posts over the past two days have reported hot ash  from the fires occasionally falling in Ainaloa .

Civil Defense noted heavy smoke and vog, borne by northeast winds into the lower Puna and Hilo areas. “Smoke conditions may increase in some areas and individuals who may be sensitive or have respiratory problems are advised to take necessary precautions and to remain indoors,” noted Civil Defense’s morning report, which came out at 7:45 a.m.




Lava Report: Is the Flow Starting on a New Path?

Both Hawaii Volcano Observatory and Civil Defense reported this morning that the lava flow’s leading edge remained “stalled” half a mile north of the Highway 130/Pahoa Village Road intersection.  But they also reported activity upslope. HVO, for instance, noted  that “breakouts along the north margin of the flow approximately 1.5 – 2.5 km (1.0 – 1.5 miles) upslope of the flow front continue to advance.”

That advance was made much clearer by the satellite-based map released this afternoon (below), showing new lava breakouts as of 11:30 a.m today.  That map shows a large new tongue of lava  headed almost due north. If that tongue joins up with the nearest matked “path of steepest descent,”  continues along that path, doesn’t stall out again, and the marked path, based on 1983 measurements, is accurate–four big “ifs”–then it could miss Pahoa completely, cut Highway 130 in the Maku`u area and then threaten parts of Hawaii Paradise Park (See small-scale map, bottom).

“The most active parts of the flow were in an area 400 to 900 m (440 to 980 yards) behind the stalled tip of the flow above Pahoa Marketplace, and at the front of a flow lobe that branches off to the north about 3 km (2 miles) behind the stalled flow tip,” noted the text accompanying the new map.” Other active breakouts on the distal part of the flow were scattered between these two areas.”

But the map also showed that one of those “other breakouts” was  a much smaller tongue that appears to be reaching toward another path of steepest descent that would take it straight through Pahoa Market Place.



Lava Report: Pele Pauses Again

After inching to within a half mile of Highway 130 on Monday, Pele appears to be backing and filling again.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported at 11 a.m. yesterday that the leading tongue of lava had stalled 580 yards above Pahoa Market Place, though there were a number of breakouts “immediately” above the flow’s leading edge and at various points further upslope, including near the old True Geothermal drilling pad in the Wao Kele O Puna forest.  A Hawaii County Civil Defense report at 7:30 this morning confirmed that the front “remains active however has not advanced since yesterday.”

In other lava news, the Postal Service disclosed its lava contingency plans at a public meeting in Pahoa yesterday afternoon. The Post Office has leased extra space in Kea’au in case it needs to evacuate its Pahoa facility.  However, it does not plan to close the Pahoa Post Office unless it’s directly threatened by the lava, and right now, that office does not appear to be in harm’s way.

Lava Report: Pele Creeps Forward

Pele is on the move again, but not very quickly.  After over a week of spreading and back-filling, the lava is once again moving downslope on 25=yard-wide front.  But according to a Civil Defense report at 7:30 this morning, the flow has only moved 15 yards downhill. The leading edge is still .6 miles from Highway 130 and about 700 yards from Pahoa Marketplace.  The flow has been angling gradually east-northeastward from the predicted path of steepest descent, in the direction of the new Pahoa police and fire stations, but both the stations and Pahoa Market Place remain within it’s possible path.


Lava News: Puna Community Medical Center Packs Up

From Dan Domizio, Puna Community Medical Center:
Yesterday, December 16th, Civil Defense walked door to door in our Pahoa Marketplace and gave us the order we all knew was coming, “Prepare to Evacuate!”. The evacuation order proper would be coming in the next few days. The gas station was pumping out the last of it’s fuel (premium only at $3.80/gal, all the rest was already gone), the supermarket is closing and packing out today, the ACE Hardware and Lex Brodie’s Tire center will be gone by tomorrow. As I pulled into gas up, I realised that I was encountering the first immediate consequences of the lava. Today, there will be no gas and the tanks will be filled with a foam and water mix to prevent explosions, and essentially make them unusable for the forseeable future.

Today, a 40 foot shipping container donated by Matson Lines will be parked next to our “Annex”clinic. The new clinic space we have been hastily creating out of a 3 bedroom appartment about a mile away on the south end of Pahoa Village, is a day or two away from being “operational.”  We will be packing up our current clinic, and either putting the supplies and equipment to use in the annex, or storing it in the container where it will wait to see how things sort out over the next days/weeks/months. The entire transition is fearsomely complicated, involving our ability to provide services, the lives of our staff and our clients, the hemorrhaging of our financial reserves, and the threat to the very survival of this town. To be doing this at all seems surreal, to be doing under time pressure is simply nuts.

As I write, it seems clear that no matter how circumstances twist and turn in the immediate future, life will never be what it was before. The community will likely be dealt a serious if not fatal blow. The Clinic and the lives that have revolved around it for the past 5+ years, will survive and continue to offer services, but the fabric will be a new and unproven one. We can only be certain that our optimism and dedication will remain intact and that PCMC will continue to be an inspiration and a fine example of how a community can, in fact, organize to meet its own needs.

Happy Holidays!

If there is someone you know looking for an update, please share this message.

Lava Report: Flow Closes to within a Mile


Hawaii County Civil Defense reported this morning that the lava flow has closed its distance from the from the intersection of Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130 to one mile.

“As the flow activity continues to show signs of advancement, businesses in the Pahoa Market Place may be taking necessary steps to prepare for a possible evacuation. Motorists are advised to drive with caution and to be prepared for increased traffic and large vehicles in the area,” Civil Defense’s 8 a.m. message stated.  Multiple news sources have reported that Malama Market close on Thursday, and evacuate its store’s contents and equipment. The gas station is scheduled to close on Friday.


Lava Report: Pele Makes Her Move

Pele appears to have decided on her new course.  And the result doesn’t look good for the businesses of the new Pahoa.

According to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s  9  a.m. report, “The active lobe is following a steepest-descent path that takes the flow towards the intersection of P?hoa Village Road and Highway 130, in the vicinity of the P?hoa Marketplace.” The flow is now about 2.1 miles above the intersection.

One bit of good news: “The flow front has also entered a burn scar which has significantly reduced the amount of smoke seen from the flow front in our webcams,” said the HVO report.  That may reduce the smoke hazard for those with lung ailments.

A smaller breakout, which began Dec. 5, is still “weakly active about 1.6 miles below Pu`u O`o.