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Hawaii Lava Flow Destroys First Home, Dozens Of Others Threatened

There are 50 to 60 homes and business in the direct path of destruction, while far more lie downslope and may still be threatened.

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A home in Hawaii was destroyed by lava on Monday after locals watched it approach for weeks.

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The lava hit the house in Pahoa just before noon local time, an official told the Associated Press. Firefighters will let the home burn, instead focusing on any wildfires that spread from the area.

The next nearest home is about half a mile away.

A lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island is threatening the community of Pahoa, where almost 1,000 people live in the rural Puna district.

The flow has been slowly advancing northwest from Kilauea volcano toward homes since June 27.

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After months of intensely watching the lava flow inch closer, at least a dozen Pahoa residents who live downslope, were placed under an evacuation advisory.

Most have left, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said Monday, and he did not believe he would have to issue a mandatory evacuation order.

Pahoa resident Denise Lagrimas moved to another part of the island, while the lava was flowing nearby her home. "It's so surreal," she said. "Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava."

Oliveira said accommodations are being made for residents to be able to watch the destruction of their homes.

"We are making these arrangements to provide for a means of closure," Oliveira said. "You can only imagine the frustration as well as ... despair they're going through."

There will be no attempt to extinguish fires burning homes — only to contain them to make sure they do not spread.

The 2,100-degree flow was expected to burn a rental home Tuesday, but instead entered the property just after 4:30 a.m. HT and moved adjacent to the home.

On its way through the property, the lava did consume a small outhouse, and the two-story rental is still in danger as a breakout of lava from the main flow moved towards it on Wednesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The breakout flow is now less than 100 feet from the home.

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The lava continued Tuesday into the next property where it engulfed a farm shed around 7:30 a.m.

Later that day, the flow burned through a pile of tires on the same property, which is an anthurium farm owned by a contractor. The tire fire filled the sky with black smoke, but was reportedly out by Wednesday early morning.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the lava advanced about 90 yards. The lava is currently less than 150 yards feet from the contractor's house, said Oliveira.

There are another 50 to 60 homes and businesses that are in the path of the lava, while far more homes are downslope and could be threatened too.

Lava is now just 225 yards from Pahoa Village Road, and could cross somewhere between Apaa Street and Post Office Road within the next 27 hours, if it continues at the current rate of 10 yards per hour.

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The molten lava will eventually make its way to the ocean.

The flow is about 10 miles to the shoreline and is expected to head downslope to the ocean eventually, but the path and time it will take are unknown.

The flow is expected to displace about 1,700 students and 300 employees who attend school in the area, Hawaii News Now reported.

Keonepoko Elementary School cancelled classes on Wednesday, and faculty is expected to move furniture and other items the next few days from the facility to the temporary Keonepoko North facility at Keaau High School. The elementary school will remain closed as long as it is in the anticipated path of the lava flow.

Starting Thursday, Pahoa High and Intermediate, Pahoa Elementary, Keaau High and Keaau Middle will all have classes cancelled, as students and faculty prepare to move to alternate facilities.

Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spent Wednesday in Pahoa to learn from officials and residents about the advancing lava.

I visited the tip of the #PunaLavaFlow today. I am in awe of Madam Pele & amazed by the strength of the community.

Tulsi Gabbard@TulsiGabbardFollow

I visited the tip of the #PunaLavaFlow today. I am in awe of Madam Pele & amazed by the strength of the community.

6:02 PM - 29 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

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On Saturday, the lava crossed Cemetery Road at Apa'a Street. The following day, the lava reached Pahoa Cemetery, covering gravestones in the predominantly Buddhist cemetery.

In anticipation of the lava, Pahoa Village Road was closed and a shelter was opened Sunday in nearby Keaau, although no one has utilized it yet.

From Sunday to Monday the lava advanced 275 yards, moving at a rate of about 15-20 yards per hour. The flow has since slowed to about 5 yards per hour.

"A lot of us are loading up on gas, getting generators in case the energy goes out," one locale resident told CNN. "And we're checking to make sure the Internet stays up."

Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983.

Since the eruption began, almost 200 homes have been destroyed by lava. The most recent home to burn was in 2011, and other residents were threatened, but the lava changed directions.

Officials have been concerned that the lava will cover Highway 130, which is the only major road in and out of the community.

The lava flow is currently 985 yards from the highway.

The National Park Service, along with the state and county, have worked to create an emergency route through the buried Chain of Craters Road in anticipation of the lava. Nearly 8 miles of the roadway has been covered by past lava flows and the restoration project is expected to cost as much as $15.5 million. If the lava flow continues on the same path towards the ocean, the alternative route would be the only road into lower Puna, West Hawaii Today reported.

Power company crews installed 70-foot-tall poles that have heat resistant protection so that cables will be higher off the roads.

On Tuesday, the lava reached the first of four power poles that were retrofitted, which sank 10-feet, but was still standing the next day, Oliveira said.

Crews worked on Wednesday along Pahoa Village Road to maintain service by lifting poles and floating lines.

The lava flow could trigger unpredictable methane explosions, launching objects into the air and potentially posing a safety hazard.

Methane explosions are the result of the burning vegetation releasing methane gas, which then ignites. The explosions can be small puffs or loud blasts.

"It's not a massive explosion," said Janet Babb, a representative for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. "But it can dislodge rocks. It can hurl large rocks several feet."

Aerial imagery of #PunaLavaFlow by @uhhilo researchers with #drone #UAV http://t.co/dEnBbrMThm

University of Hawaii@UHawaiiNewsFollow

Aerial imagery of #PunaLavaFlow by @uhhilo researchers with #drone #UAV http://t.co/dEnBbrMThm

6:10 PM - 29 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Another concern is smoke from the fires, which can cause some people downwind to have respiratory problems.

The entire Puna district is located on the volcano and is considered a high-risk area.

Officials started warning residents in Puna to prepare for lava while they were still coping with the impact of Tropical Storm Iselle in August.

Still the Puna district appeals to people, because of its affordable real estate and lush landscape. The area is largely undeveloped with roads made of volcanic rock and most people living off the grid on solar power and water catchments.

Pahoa is home to the largest commercial area in Puna, which is predominately an agricultural district.

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

Tiffany Edwards, co-owner of a surf shop, said there’s a threat Pahoa could become a ghost town if lava crosses roads connecting the village with the rest of the Big Island.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

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