The Threat of Lava

A Hawaiian village braces as a volcano's flow comes within 100 yards of residential property.

U.S. Geological Survey/AP

A river of lava as hot as 2,000 degree Fahrenheit is headed towards Pahoa, Hawaii, threatening to wipe out the small town in the rural area of the Big Island.

The lava is creeping steadily forward at a rate of 15-to-20 yards per hour from the Kilauea volcano, which has been active since 1983. For most of the last thirty years, the majority of the lava headed straight into the ocean. But in 2012, the lava took a northeast turn and began heading for Pahoa, though it did not pose a danger to residents until this summer.

Thus far, the county has spent $6 million on volcano related efforts, with a projected additional spending of $16 million, an amount that the governor fears would "exhaust the state’s Major Disaster Fund." Last week, Governor Neil Abercrombie asked the president for a "disaster declaration that would free up federal funds in the country's response efforts."

In the declaration, Abercrombie wrote:

“The projected path of the lava flow takes it directly through the center of Pahoa town, which serves as the main center of commerce in the district. The effect of the destruction and/or isolation of the businesses and other institutions in Pahoa will be devastating to the entire Puna District.

If the lava flow crosses Highway 130 as projected, residential communities, schools, government facilities, businesses, and industry will be under threat of disaster due to lava inundation, fire, and/or being land locked and isolated from the rest of the community.”

In the meantime, authorities are going door-to-door to urge an evacuation. As of this morning at 7:30 a.m. local time (1:30 p.m. Eastern), the lava was 100 yards away from the nearest residential property.