UH Hilo assists with public viewing of the Puna lava flow

The former flow front stopped just short of the Pāhoa Transfer Station early last month, creating a perfect viewing area for the public.

By Susan Enright.

Faculty, staff and students from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo geology department and Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes (CSAV) are assisting Hawai‘i County Civil Defense with public tours of the lava flow in Puna. The former flow front stopped just short of the Pāhoa Transfer Station early last month, creating a perfect viewing area for the public.

Liliana Desmither of the Center for the Study of Active VolcanoesSAV answers questions from visitors
UH Hilo alumna Liliana Desmithe, now assisting the university’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes with this public outreach project, answers questions from visitors to the lava flow. Click to enlarge. Photos courtesy of CSAV.

The opening of public access to the area began last week with educational tours for school children, and was opened Wednesday to the general public.

Crowds shows visitors enjoying the views and posters under the Transfer Station roof
Visitors view educational posters under the transfer station roof. Click to enlarge.

“This is now the showcase area for the lava flow,” says Darcy Bevens, educational specialist at CSAV (2:13 in the video above).

Liliana Desmither, a recent graduate of the UH Hilo geology program assisting CSAV with this public outreach project, and Bevens were at the transfer station on Wednesday from 8:00 to 6:00 p.m. to help answer questions.

UH Hilo geology lecturer Cheryl Gansecki, who has been producing videos of the flow, and students who have finished their exams will help Thursday. Ken Hon, UH Hilo professor of geology and an expert in pahoehoe lava, will be there Friday.

Darcy Bevens reports on the first day of the Pāhoa Transfer Station being open to the public as a viewing stage of the lava flow:

Darcy Bevens. File photo.
Darcy Bevens. File photo.

There were no large tour buses, only residents and visitors in sedans. Handicapped vehicles get to park in the Transfer Station; volunteers guide everyone else to parking on Apaa Street, where the brush has been cut way back and gravel laid down to form a wide shoulder.

It had rained the night before, so some of the inflated areas had steam rising from cracks, delighting visitors. Folks are allowed to stand under the Transfer Station Roof, and to walk to the fenced-in area of the utility poles.

All the visitors were amazed to see the lava, and so were residents. I thought residents would be asking when the lava would hit the Market, but to the contrary, they wanted to know when their beloved Transfer Station would be open for trash disposal again! Everyone admired the beautiful creations of Pele, and everyone was grateful to (Civil Defense) for opening this up for viewing.

Road with large areas netted off, piles of cinder, people milling around. Sign: Road Narrows.
The view a visitor has when walking towards the transfer station (on the right) and the utility poles that have been wrapped in silver insulation. Click to enlarge.
Educational poster about the electric pole insulation, with words: What is protecting the pole? With explanations in small print that cannot be read in the photo.
Educational poster about the electric pole insulation designed with the help of UH Hilo geologists.

County Civil Defense reports the new flow front, occurring north of the old front, remains active and continues to advance toward Highway 130 and Pāhoa Village Road intersection. Current activity does not pose an immediate threat to area communities but residents are advised to remain vigilant in tracking the flow. Visit the County Civil Defense website and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website for current flow updates.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.