Lava flow from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is headed for a shopping center in Pahoa Village and could reach it by Christmas, according to authorities. Residents are bracing for the potentially catastrophic event with plans to drain a gas station of fuel and cut electricity to buildings in the path of the flow, which has been creeping toward the town since June.
The flow progressed 165 yards between Wednesday and Thursday and another 130 yards since Thursday. At that point the tip of the flow was about 1,200 yards from the shopping center. It has slowed somewhat over the last week, but that could be because it’s moving across flatter land, according to state authorities.
The flow could turn in a number of directions, but is expected to go down a steep path toward the center of Pahoa Village and Highway 130, the main road in the area.
Gov. David Ige toured the area on the ground and by helicopter on Friday and said residents are pulling together. He said the state would continue offering assistance and that seeing the flow from above was an eye opener.
“It certainly gave me a human and personal perspective to the flow,” he said, according to KITV. “I do know the eruption has been going on for 30 years and this flow has stretched more than 13 miles, but to actually see it, to fly over it, to notice the variations, how it’s sometimes very broad or very narrow. The fits and the starts in the flow and the randomness really become very apparent,” he said.
The volcano has been erupting since 1983 and its flow has destroyed more than 200 buildings and cut off access to a number of areas on the Big Island. It has only threatened Pahoa Village since June, when it began moving east.
President Barack Obama, who will spend 16 days vacationing on the island starting Friday, signed a Disaster Declaration in November that allows the state to receive federal funding to respond to the event. There are not yet plans for the president to visit Pahoa Village or any of the other affected areas.