Lava nears Royal Gardens

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HILO — Hawaii County officials are making plans for a lava viewing area in Kalapana should the latest flow from Kilauea’s Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent advance over the top of Pulama pali.

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HILO — Hawaii County officials are making plans for a lava viewing area in Kalapana should the latest flow from Kilauea’s Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent advance over the top of Pulama pali.

As of Thursday, the month-old flow was nearing the mauka boundary of the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision but remained out of sight from the coastline.

Ed Teixeira, Civil Defense interim administrator, said parking stalls have already been marked at the former lava viewing area at the end of Highway 130. Additionally, plans are being made to allow people to walk down the gravel emergency route established in 2014 as the “June 27” flow threatened to sever the highway in Pahoa.

That follows an 8-mile section of the former highway that was previously covered by lava.

As long as it remains safe, Teixeira said lava viewers would be allowed to hike down the 3-mile section that belongs to the county, which would take them near the makai boundary of the subdivision, also covered by earlier flows from Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s 33-year eruption. The rest is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“It is still considered an emergency route,” Teixeira said, regarding the decision to keep out vehicle traffic. “We want to protect the integrity of that.”

Asked about the possibility of lava covering the emergency route, he said, “If lava reaches, it lava reaches it. There’s nothing we can do.”

Security would be provided at the viewing area and volunteers might be used to help direct traffic and provide information on what to bring on the hike, he said. Similar protocols were followed when earlier flows from Pu‘u ‘O‘o were visible from Kalapana, a community previously inundated with lava.

“We’re following all kinds of procedures used in the past,” Teixeira said.

He said the park would remain the best place to view lava.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the flow was about 330 feet from the former subdivision as of a Thursday overflight.

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Geologists estimated it was also advancing at 330 feet per day, meaning the boundary could already have been reached. The flow itself is about 3.2 miles long with a developed tube system.

There are no homes left in the subdivision so no property is at risk. But its boundary could be used as an indicator for how close the flow is to reaching the top of the pali and steeper terrain that could put it in view from Kalapana and the park.

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