For the first time since August 2013, lava from Kilauea’s Pu’u O’o vent will soon be entering the sea. Currently, the flow is advancing down the east rift zone headed toward the abandoned subdivision of Royal Gardens. According to USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the flow front is advancing on average of 330 feet per day, which by most estimates, means it should reach the sea in just a few short weeks.
Residents of Pahoa are breathing a sigh of relief now that a separate flow that had threatened the community two years ago is officially inactive. That flow, known as the “June 27” flow, came just mere yards from the town of Pahoa before mysteriously stopping just shy of the transfer station. Petrified lava “waterfalls” can be seen embedded on the berm above the transfer station. The Japanese cemetery farther up was also inundated with lava, although some of the headstones were spared.
The fact that the new flow is headed back into Royal Gardens, however, should come as no surprise, as the subdivision has been inundated many time through the years ever since the Pu’o O’o vent began continuously erupting in 1983. In fact, Royal Gardens was the place where the first house to be claimed by the Pu’u O’o flow was destroyed in March 1983. Lava flows of the past have traversed Royal Gardens relatively quickly, because the subdivision was built on a very steep hillside, rising 1,400 vertical feet in just two miles.
Kilauea is the youngest and most active volcano on the Big Island, located right next to and below the mighty Mauna Loa. The current flow is 5.1 miles long and first broke out from the flanks of Pu’u O‘o on May 24, 2016. According to USGS, if and when the flow reaches the coastal plain and then the ocean depends on the “evolution of a tube system and constancy of lava supplied from the vent."
Anyone who wants to view the lava flows from above should book a tour with Paradise Helicopters or with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, or by via a Cessna Caravan turbine-engine jet-prop plane with Big Island Air Tours. The flow is not located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but it is always a good idea to consult with a ranger before attempting to hike to any area where lava is occurring.