Activity focused upslope; front still stalled

The June 27 lava flow offered little for geologists and Civil Defense officials to observe Monday around Pahoa as it focused its activity miles upslope from the town it has left on edge for the past few months.

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The June 27 lava flow offered little for geologists and Civil Defense officials to observe Monday around Pahoa as it focused its activity miles upslope from the town it has left on edge for the past few months.

The front, stalled 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road since Oct. 30, remained stopped in its tracks, and lobes active only a couple of days ago near Apa‘a Street failed to gain ground.

“It was a very unusual morning,” Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, told reporters following a helicopter tour of the flow. “We are just watching and waiting at this point.”

It wasn’t all quiet along the 13.5-mile-long flow’s path.

Six miles upslope of Apa‘a Street, lava was seen seeping from a ground crack system that helped channel the flow toward Pahoa a few months ago and another breakout 1 mile from Pu‘u ‘O‘o — the lava’s source — remained active after emerging during the weekend.

Oliveira noted lava still could be seen around Pahoa through skylights and cracks in the flow’s crust.

“We are still very cautious about saying anything has changed without hearing more from (Hawaiian Volcano Observatory) and their assessment,” he said.

Janet Babb, HVO spokeswoman, said it’s possible the breakouts upslope were diverting lava away from Pahoa. She cautioned more observations still need to be done before HVO could say for sure what was happening.

Still, the pause was welcomed news for Alfred Lee, who has watched the flow closely since it stalled in his backyard more than two weeks ago.

“I feel really lucky,” said Lee, who became well known for the large berm he built to protect his home. “It could be worse. It could be coming in.”

The flow stopped a few feet from the berm, and Lee said Sunday night was one of the first times he couldn’t see the lava’s red glow from his home on Pahoa Village Road.

“Most nights you can see and then we get nothing,” he said. “I was surprised.”

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The next community meeting on the lava flow is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Pahoa High School cafeteria.

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

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