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Pahoa Village Road may reopen Thursday

The most direct route into Pahoa Village from Hilo and upper Puna should be open by Thursday, according to the county’s Civil Defense chief.

“We’re shooting for Thanksgiving to have Pahoa Village Road open,” Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said in Monday’s media briefing. “Apa‘a Street will remain closed (except for) local traffic only because we’re not allowing traffic up to where the flow crossed Apa‘a Street and the transfer station.

“… It will take a few days to remove everything and make it safe for people to drive through.”

Oliveira said Hawaii Electric Light Co. crews are removing the cinder-based insulation material from around the base of utility poles deemed in the path of the lava flow.

“When I spoke to their supervisor in the field, he indicated they would have a street sweeper out there later today (Monday), which indicates to me they have removed most of the material around the poles,” Oliveira said.

He said the county’s Department of Public Works Traffic Division would inspect the street “to identify any potential traffic issues or hazard.”

“HELCO is not at this point removing the concrete rings or wire mesh around the poles, so they do stick out from the base of the pole maybe two feet or so …, so it does create a wider base around the poles,” Oliveira said. He added DPW would “identify if we need to do anything else, maybe flashing sawhorses, barricades, any sort of a warning indicator that would let the vehicle traffic know there is a slight hazard there.”

Oliveira asked residents and visitors to respect the privacy of private landowners in the area and to not stop by the roadside to take photos or gawk.

“If we’re opening up the road, it’s to alleviate traffic concerns and for access, and we don’t want that impacted in any way by people stopping to take pictures,” he explained.

Oliveira noted plans are in the works to set up a lava viewing area at the Pahoa Transfer Station. When the Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent-fed flow was active in the Apa‘a Street area, lava encroached through the fences at the county facility.

He said county officials are “working with police on a traffic management plan” and “providing for an educational experience at the viewing site” with partners such as the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“We see the transfer station as a viable place to do the educational venue,” he said. “It has some of the features that would make it good for the traffic flow, such as a semi-circular driveway with gates so you can bring buses in and out. It has covered areas for those presentations and briefings.”

Oliveira added a needs assessment is being done to identify what will make the site more user-friendly, such as porta-potties.

“We’re trying to expedite that while the conditions allow for safe viewing,” he said.

Monday morning’s Civil Defense assessment showed active lava breakouts on the June 27 flow between 3.5 and 6 miles upslope of Apa‘a Street. The most downslope breakout had advanced about 150 yards since Sunday morning. None of the breakouts pose an immediate threat to area communities, according to Civil Defense.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.

 

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