County considering Kaohe evacuation

Hawaii County officials are considering issuing an evacuation notice for Kaohe Homesteads after the June 27 lava flow changed direction Wednesday.

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Hawaii County officials are considering issuing an evacuation notice for Kaohe Homesteads after the June 27 lava flow changed direction Wednesday.

Kevin Dayton, executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi, said Thursday morning such an order could come within the next 24 hours.

Beginning Saturday, the flow from Pu‘u ‘O‘o on Kilauea volcanoʻs East Rift Zone was moving in a mostly northerly direction and it appeared it could bypass the neighborhood, consisting of about 30 to 40 homes on farm lots. On Wednesday, the flow moved more toward the northeast, and could be about a day from reaching the northwestern edge of Kaohe as a result, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The new direction also makes it more likely the flow could end up in the center of Pahoa village rather than its outskirts, said Janet Babb, HVO geologist.

“Given the current trajectory of the flow as of today, the downhill path would put it more in the center of Pahoa,” she said.

“Where the lava flow goes tomorrow could change things.”

Since community meetings on the flow began Aug. 25, county Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira has told residents an evacuation notice would be given if the flow was within five days of reaching Kaohe.

“You will receive notice in days not hours,” Oliveira first told residents at a meeting Aug. 25.

Asked if the county missed that window, Dayton backtracked that statement, saying Oliveira told him the five-day warning was intended for the evacuation of livestock, rather than people.

Oliveira was not available for comment, and Dayton said he was asking for more clarity on that statement in response to questions.

Asked if he thought the statements were confusing for residents, Dayton said: “I don’t know the answer to that.

“I know the county is committed to providing enough notice so people can safely evacuate.”

It was thought the flow might bypass Kaohe if it remained on a mostly northerly path.

Dayton noted the difficulty in predicting its path, and he believed enough notice may still be given.

“I think they (residents) clearly understand the obvious: the threat is real,” he said.

“And we are looking at the possibility of an evacuation notice within the next 24 hours.”

Dayton said Kaohe residents indicated to the county they didn’t need a shelter, and it wasn’t immediately clear if such accommodations will be made if an evacuation notice is issued.

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It also wasn’t immediately clear how many homes could be directly in the flow’s path.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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