Lava flow slowdown continues

The June 27 lava flow hasn’t quite given Pahoa Marketplace merchants the Christmas miracle they are hoping for but it is giving them more time to prepare, watch and wait.

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The June 27 lava flow hasn’t quite given Pahoa Marketplace merchants the Christmas miracle they are hoping for but it is giving them more time to prepare, watch and wait.

The flow front remained about 0.4 miles from the shopping center and 0.6 miles from Highway 130 on Monday morning after advancing 70 yards in 24 hours.

Unless the flow front stalls, lava remains on track to eventually reach the marketplace, though the ongoing slowdown has allowed officials to push back its potential arrival date to at least 10 days out.

As of a week ago, the flow front was advancing about 300 yards per day.

Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman, said breakouts upslope continue to rob the front of some of its supply. Flatter terrain is also contributing to the slowdown.

The front was about 100 to 150 yards wide, said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.

He cautioned the flow’s advance rate could increase again.

“This is a very frustrating, difficult type of event to follow, track and prepare for because of uncertainty of the different variables,” Oliveira said.

He acknowledged that frustration extends to the merchants, some of whom have already shut their doors in anticipation of the lava’s arrival. Dozens of employees have lost their jobs, at least temporarily, or relocated to other store locations as a result of the voluntary evacuations.

“They are doing the best they can to take what steps they need to protect their inventory and investment,” Oliveira said.

“And I realize how challenging it is to give them a more definite timeline or more accurate timeline given all the variables. They are responding and reacting very well. We appreciate the patience of the businesses.”

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He said traffic has remained light on the Railroad Avenue alternate route since it opened Saturday. The highway remains open.

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

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