State scientists and officials are warning some residents of
Hawaii's Big Island that their homes could be jeopardized by
a lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that is moving through a
forest preserve toward their neighborhood.
A US Geological Survey scientist said that while the lava
flow did not pose an imminent threat to residents of the
Kaohe Homesteads of the island's Puna area, it was less than
3km away and appeared to be advancing.
"We are observing steam plumes," said Jim Kauahikaua,
Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
The Hawaii Volcano Observatory and Hawaii County Civil
Defense are holding meetings throughout the week to update
residents on the potential threat, and the county was
conducting daily flights over the area to assess the danger.
"It's very difficult to forecast what direction it could
take," said Darryl Oliveira, Director of Hawaii County's
Civil Defence, noting the flow has averaged a rate of travel
of 60m to 90m a day.
If the flow progresses toward Kaohe, officials say it is hard
to gauge when it could reach homes, and Kauahikaua noted the
flow was "speeding up then slowing down."
"It could be weeks or months depending on its range," he
said. "Lava is flowing on the surface as well as in cracks in
the ground which are covered with vegetation so we can't see
everything. But we're observing a lot of steam."
Kilauea's current eruption began in 1983, and the fresh
activity stems from a June 27 flow from Kilauea's Pu'u O'o
vent. Kauahikaua said the flow was currently moving through
very wet forest preserve, which was smoldering around the
lava flow. The area has not seen any incidents of forest
Oliveira could not give a precise number for how many
residents live at Kaohe, but said it was estimated at roughly
30 to 50 households although some people may be living off
the grid or unaccounted for in the area.
The last time a Hawaii home was destroyed by lava was in 2012
at the Royal Gardens Subdivision in Kalapana, Oliveira said.