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Federal Disaster Assistance Requested as Lava Advances

October 24, 2014, 3:41 PM HST · Updated October 24, 4:06 PM
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Work began today in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the emergency access route between the park and lower Puna on the historic Chain of Craters Road-Kalapana road alignment. Park staff removed the iconic "Road Closed" sign before the first bulldozer rolled onto the lava-covered roadway. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Work began today in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the emergency access route between the park and lower Puna on the historic Chain of Craters Road-Kalapana road alignment. Park staff removed the iconic “Road Closed” sign before the first bulldozer rolled onto the lava-covered roadway. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

By Wendy Osher

Governor Neil Abercrombie today signed a request seeking federal assistance through a Presidential Disaster Declaration to supplement local emergency efforts in response to the Kīlauea lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

“The June 27 lava flow, named for the date that it began erupting from Puʻu ʻŌʻō on Kīlauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone on Hawaiʻi Island, continued to move toward Pāhoa” this week, and was within a half mile of the town according to recent reports issued by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Work began today in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the emergency access route between the park and lower Puna on the historic Chain of Craters Road-Kalapana road alignment. Park staff removed the iconic "Road Closed" sign before the first bulldozer rolled onto the lava-covered roadway. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Work began today in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on the emergency access route between the park and lower Puna on the historic Chain of Craters Road-Kalapana road alignment. Park staff removed the iconic “Road Closed” sign before the first bulldozer rolled onto the lava-covered roadway. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

The previously sluggish flow front picked up speed this week, with the narrow flow front advancing towards Apa‘a Street at a higher rate, according to the agency.

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By Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, the flow front was approximately 250 yards from the closest spot on Apa‘a Street, according to the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense Agency.

Crews from Hawaiʻi County and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park begin work today on an emergency access route to assist residents of lower Puna, whose access to the rest of the island would be cut off if the lava flow reaches the ocean.

According to the Governor, emergency protective measures undertaken by Hawaiʻi County include “the repair, restoration, and re-establishment of alternate routes in and out of affected communities.”

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The state, meantime is working to accommodate approximately 900 schoolchildren that will be displaced by the lava flow.  Other state efforts include support for air quality monitoring.

The governor signed an emergency proclamation on Sept. 5 that gave the state the ability to reestablish abandoned roads for access to isolated communities.  The proclamation also activated the state’s Major Disaster Fund for disaster relief.

Also in September, the state Department of Education initiated contingency plans for area public schools, announcing work to build an alternate site for elementary students in preparation for lava to eventually cross Pāhoa’s Highway 130.

Daily eruption updates issued by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are available at the following direct LINK.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency issued the following Daily Update this morning, Friday, Oct. 24, at 7:45 a.m.:

This morning’s assessment shows that the flow has advanced approximately 300 yards since yesterday.  This flow front is active and moving in a northeast direction.  Currently the leading edge of the advancing flow is approximately 250 yards from the Apaʻa Street area near the Pāhoa Transfer Station.  There was very little burning activity and smoke conditions were moderate. There is no brush fire threat at this time.

Civil Defense and Public Safety personnel will be conducting door to door notifications of residents in the down slope areas of Pāhoa Village to insure residents are aware of current activities.  Door to door notifications will be taking place tomorrow, Saturday October 25th.  This is not an evacuation notice.   This is not an evacuation notice.

Current flow activity does not pose an immediate threat to area communities and no evacuation is needed at this time.  Area residents will be given adequate notice to safely evacuate should that be necessary. 

With the change in flow activity and advancement, Apaāa Street and Cemetery Road will remained closed between the Pahoa Transfer Station and the Kaʻohe Homesteads Road.  In addition, Civil Defense and public safety personnel will be operating in the area round the clock to maintain close observations of flow activity.”

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