A week ago the active Kilauea lava flow from the Pu’u O’o vent in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park crossed over a county road (Apa’a Street) and headed onto private property. It destroyed several fence lines, a Buddhist cemetery, some agricultural sheds and a pile of abandoned automobile tires. This particular flow started up on 6/27/14 heading in the northeast direction, and is about 13 miles from Pu’u O’o.
It is now a few hundred feet in front of the first residence in its path, owned by Alfred Lee, a bulldozer contractor. Mr. Lee apparently has built up a berm (dirt/gravel wall, with a sunken area) on the sides of his property, and in front of the lava flow, up to 12 feet high to protect his property. Read more about that controversial berm in the local Big Island newspaper Hawaii Tribune-Herald. He was recently photographed shooting down the front of the flow with water from a hose (which in the past has been done by Hawaii County firefighters to attempt to slow down the slow-moving lava).
The lava flow has now stalled in the front, but is experiencing breakouts in the rear, mauka (moutainside) areas. Above is the latest 10/31/14 USGS map of the flow, with the newer areas marked in bright red.
Mr. Lee’s home (grey roof) is to the left in the photo above, a greenhouse is the black rectangular shape in the middle of the photo. The large berm is in the middle of the photo, to the left of the smoking black lava flow (pahoehoe, the ropey type of lava).
Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency is monitoring the situation 24 hours a day (now with assistance from the National Guard), and will issue evacuation notices as needed. The fear is that the lava flow will first cover Pahoa Village Road just to the left of the homes pictured above, the main street into the Pahoa town of 1000 residents, then continue in a north direction to the busier bypass Highway 130. If both streets are thereby cut off, access to hundreds of residents will be cut off, except for a dirt/gravel beach road which eventually gets to Hilo, the main city. The current flow is about 480 feet from Pahoa Village Rd.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also currently bulldozing through 8 miles of older lava flows in the Kalapana area, to open up the Chain of Craters road for another access route.
Stay tuned for further updates. This particular vent has been erupting since 1983, so it’s not likely to stop in the near future.