Lava oozes toward Ahalanui park

  • USGS map updated Monday.

Ahalanui Beach Park might be the next area threatened by lava as the flow front in lower Puna inches southward toward Warm Ponds.

The southern edge of the lava flow from fissure 8 reached less than a mile from Ahalanui by Monday, having shifted nearly 3,000 feet within the previous five days.

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U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua reportedly estimated early Monday that the lava could reach the park within the week if it continues at its previous rate. However, Mike Zoeller, a geologist with the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, said that the rate of the flow moving southward from Kapoho has slowed since the weekend.

Within the channel, the highest recorded speed of the lava was approximately 21 miles per hour, Zoeller said.

The flow now extends over nearly 10 square miles, Zoeller said, but has so far not suffered a major overflow. Some collapses at the tops of the lava channel walls have occurred, causing small lava streams to leave the channel and travel away from the primary flow.

However, Zoeller said that major failures of the levee walls are possible and have historical precedent, so USGS is continually monitoring the channel to identify and warn about possible outbreaks.

Zoeller said some of the fissures to the northeast of fissure 8 — which remains the prime driver of the ongoing lava flow — might be active to some capacity but that cannot be confirmed because of the high amount of gas emitted in the area, which has reached up to 25,000 tons of sulfur dioxide a day. Fissures 6, 16, 18 and 22, all of which are northeast of fissure 8, have been weakly active in the past several days.

The deformation of terrain around Kilauea summit continues, with semi-regular pressure-driven explosions driving significant slumping of the ground around Halema‘uma‘u crater. Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said no professional assessment has been made as to the condition of Jaggar Museum, located at the edge of the crater, although the museum has sustained visible damage.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Recovery Center at Keaau High School has received 1,442 visits by residents applying for federal aid as of Sunday, said Garth MacDonald, public information officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Most of those visitors are referred to the SBA for low-interest disaster loans, MacDonald said.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, I’m not a business, I don’t qualify for that,’” MacDonald said.

However, he said, any homeowners, landlords, businesses and private nonprofits that sustained disaster-related damage are all eligible for SBA disaster loans. FEMA also announced Monday that renters are eligible for federal disaster loans of up to $40,000 through the SBA, with terms as long as 30 years and interest rates as low as 1.938 percent.

MacDonald recommended that residents who have been directly affected by the lava apply for a loan, even if they do not think they will need one or don’t know exactly how much money they will need. There is no obligation to accept a loan if eligible.

In other developments:

• In addition to the Rotary Club of Hilo donating proceeds from Hilo Brewfest to the club’s Fund for Puna Lava Relief, Hilo businessman Ed Olson — owner of the Brewfest’s venue, the Wainaku Executive Center — announced Monday he would donate the lease proceeds from the event to recovery efforts as well. The proceeds, which total approximately $6,000, will be donated to community organization Pu‘uhonua O Puna, which offers community-donated supplies to those affected by the lava.

• Hawaii County Civil Defense reported that the total number of homes confirmed to be destroyed since May 3 is 657.

• The number of evacuees in the two Red Cross shelters is down to 291. Sunday night, 62 residents were inside the Pahoa shelter, with 185 staying outside the shelter, while 22 residents stayed in the Keaau Armory shelter and an additional 23 stayed outside it.

• A community meeting will take place at 5 p.m. tonight at the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

• A community meeting about the ongoing summit volcanic activity is slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Cooper Center in Volcano.

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Reporter John Burnett contributed to this story.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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