Public to see stalled lava flow

PAHOA — The public could soon see stalled portions of the June 27 lava flow up close.

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PAHOA — The public could soon see stalled portions of the June 27 lava flow up close.

Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said the plan is to restore unrestricted access to Apaa Street shortly, allowing people to walk up to — but not on — the cooling lava.

“Our goal is to see if we can do something in the next week,” he said, adding no dates have been determined.

“We’re very cautious about throwing out a date. We don’t want to disappoint anyone.”

Lava crossed Apaa Street/Cemetery Road on Oct. 25, and later covered a cemetery, destroyed a nearby house and partially inundated the closed Pahoa waste transfer station at the top of Apaa Street.

It has been cooling in that area for nearly a month, leaving behind a large craggy mass of black rock.

Heat still radiates from underneath in some areas. Warren Lee, county Public Works director, said he detected temperatures of 300 degrees inside a crack in the stalled flow Thursday.

While that area continues to cool, the lava flow is anything but pau.

Another flow finger remains active and appears headed toward Pahoa Marketplace. The Apaa Street area is not threatened by that flow.

The front of the active area advanced another 350 yards as of Friday morning and was 1.8 miles from Highway 130.

After entering Pahoa in late October, the flow stopped 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road, just out of sight of passing motorists.

Reopening Apaa Street would provide the first opportunity for the public to see the flow for themselves.

Oliveira said there will be security present as well as parking areas.

“We’d like to keep everyone safe and make sure their experience here is one that is very meaningful,” he said.

The county, with help from Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, University of Hawaii at Hilo and other groups, has provided tours of the inactive lava flow to school students throughout the week.

Oliveira estimated about 1,000 students would have gone on the field trips by the end of the week.

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He said he is talking with state Department of Education about continuing those trips.

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

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