Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory has released a new map of the lava flow, with a rather grim new feature: it marks off the distance from the flow front to the edge of the Pahoa Marketplace shopping center in increments four tenths of a mile.
The new map, the first since December 9, shows that the lava has descended about six tenths of a mile in three days since Pele definitely turned down the “steepest descent path” toward the shopping center after pooling for a few days in a relatively flat area where it could have either gone toward Pahoa Marketplace or down another steepest-descent path toward the lower portion of Hawaiian Paradise Park. As of 2:30 p.m. the lava had advanced to to a point just above the 1.6 mile tick on the dotted blue path.
The map came, however, with a caution: the marked steepest-descent paths are far from infallible.
“Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths,” note the HVO Web site.
Pahoa Marketplace, opened in 2004, was the first shopping center built at the crossroads where the Pahoa Bypass diverges from the former highway that runs through downtown Pahoa,. The center houses Malama Market, the area’s largest supermarket; Lex Brody Tires, and a number of boutique shops. Across the street, a newer shopping center houses Long’s Drugs and other businesses. Since the two centers were built, a smaller downtown grocery and all of pharmacies in downtown Pahoa have closed. The flow’s new path could also threaten Pahoa’s new police and fire stations and cut off the Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Shores subdivisions.