A look at Hawaii volcano sending lava toward homes

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Hawaii Volcano Kilauea
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A look at Hawaii volcano sending lava toward homes
PAHOA, HAWAII - OCTOBER 28: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), A portion of the front of the June 27th lava flow pushes through a fence marking a property boundary on October 28, 2014 in Pahoa, Hawaii. Scientists of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory conducted ground and air observations of the lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano and determined that it was 510 meters (560 yards) upslope from Pa-hoa Village Road and the flow width was about 50 meters (55 yards) at the leading edge. Molten rock from the flow is inching its way towards homes in the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island where close to a thousand people live. (Photo by USGS via Getty Images)
PAHOA, HAWAII - OCTOBER 28: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), A portion of the front of the June 27th lava flow pushes through a fence marking a property boundary on October 28, 2014 in Pahoa, Hawaii. Scientists of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory conducted ground and air observations of the lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano and determined that it was 510 meters (560 yards) upslope from Pa-hoa Village Road and the flow width was about 50 meters (55 yards) at the leading edge. Molten rock from the flow is inching its way towards homes in the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island where close to a thousand people live. (Photo by USGS via Getty Images)
In this Sept. 3, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, fluid lava streams from the June 27 lava flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow is named for the date it began erupting from a new vent. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a warning Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 to a rural community in the path of a lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island, as the molten rock moved to within a mile of homes. Observatory scientists said lava from the Kilauea volcano could reach the Kaohe Homesteads in five to seven days if it continues advancing through cracks in the earth. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
In this Sept. 1, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, fluid lava streams from the June 27 lava flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow is named for the date it began erupting from a new vent. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a warning Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 to a rural community in the path of a lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island, as the molten rock moved to within a mile of homes. Observatory scientists said lava from the Kilauea volcano could reach the Kaohe Homesteads in five to seven days if it continues advancing through cracks in the earth. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
In this Sept. 1, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, fluid lava streams from the June 27 lava flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow is named for the date it began erupting from a new vent. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a warning Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 to a rural community in the path of a lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island, as the molten rock moved to within a mile of homes. Observatory scientists said lava from the Kilauea volcano could reach the Kaohe Homesteads in five to seven days if it continues advancing through cracks in the earth. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
In this Aug. 29, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, fluid lava streams from the June 27 lava flow from the Kilauea volcano in Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow is named for the date it began erupting from a new vent. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a warning Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 to a rural community in the path of a lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island, as the molten rock moved to within a mile of homes. Observatory scientists said lava from the Kilauea volcano could reach the Kaohe Homesteads in five to seven days if it continues advancing through cracks in the earth. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
This Aug. 22, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the Pu'u 'O'o crater of the Kilauea volcano partially obscured by thick fume from the June 27 lava flow near Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow, named for the date it began erupting from a new vent, isn't an immediate threat to homes or structures downhill of the flow, but could become one in weeks or months if it continues to advance, the U.S. Geographical Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, Tim Orr)
This Aug. 12, 2014 photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a fluid lava stream within the main tube of the June 27 lava flow from the Kilauea volcano Pahoa, Hawaii. The June 27 lava flow, named for the date it began erupting from a new vent, isn't an immediate threat to homes or structures downhill of the flow, but could become one in weeks or months if it continues to advance, the U.S. Geographical Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
In this photo provided by the US Geological Survey, taken Saturday, March 5, 2011, Incandescent rubble is shown rolling down the scarp of Pu'u O'o crater near Volcano, Hawaii. Scientists are monitoring a new vent that has opened at the Kilauea volcano, sending lava shooting up to 65 feet high. (AP Photo/US Geological Survey)
Kilauea volcano, Hawaii. Cool to see what earth must have been once. http://t.co/p2SQ2XuEJE
Paddling near to a volcano. The Kilauea is throwing lava into the ocean since 1983. Photo by AleSocci http://t.co/jrVKdEIthm
#Hawaii mayor declares state of emergency as lava from #Kilauea volcano flows towards homes http://t.co/kkBSBPG2Bw http://t.co/qTsXIPhOKj
Lava flowing from Hawaii volcano http://t.co/ie6XNHobao http://t.co/wcMWCazvjJ
Lava is crawling inch-by-inch towards a Hawaii rural community, but there's no evacuation yet. http://t.co/s4zfLppubS http://t.co/fEe6em3sNf
Map locates Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.; 2c x 3 inches; 96.3 mm x 76 mm;
BIG ISLAND, HAWAII - APRIL 6. EXCLUSIVE: Pahoehoe lava is entering the sea during the day from Kilauea volcano on April, 6, 2005 in Hawaii. German electrical engineer Martin Rietze specialises in astronomical and meteorological equipment, his work takes him to strange environments such as the Arctic and volcanos around the world. As a lover of photography Martin always documents his trip with pictures and noticed how alien landscapes can look despite being here on earth. Martin has produced a stunning set of images entitled Alien Landscapes on Planet Earth which he hopes one day will form a book. (Photo by Martin Rietze / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
BIG ISLAND, HAWAII - APRIL 6. EXCLUSIVE: Pahoehoe lava is entering the sea at dawn time from Kilauea volcano on April, 6, 2005 in Hawaii. German electrical engineer Martin Rietze specialises in astronomical and meteorological equipment, his work takes him to strange environments such as the Arctic and volcanos around the world. As a lover of photography Martin always documents his trip with pictures and noticed how alien landscapes can look despite being here on earth. Martin has produced a stunning set of images entitled Alien Landscapes on Planet Earth which he hopes one day will form a book. (Photo by Martin Rietze / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 2003: Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (UNESCO World Heritage List, 1987), Island of Hawaii, Hawaii, United States of America. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
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By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER & MARK THIESSEN

HONOLULU (AP) - Lava from one of the world's most active volcanoes is creeping slowly but steadily through cracks in the earth toward a rural subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island. Scientists warn that if the lava flow from Kilauea continues on its path, it could reach a small patch of homes in about a week.

Here's a look at Kilauea, which has been continuously erupting since 1983:

THE LATEST

Lava could reach the Kaohe Homesteads, a sparsely populated subdivision, in four to six days after new vents on the volcano's northeast flank were spotted June 27. Lava has been flowing underground, filling cracks and then reappearing above ground farther down the flank.

The lava has flowed about 8.2 miles from the vent, coming within a mile of the eastern edge of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve. Officials have estimated that with the lava moving about 820 feet a day, it could reach homes sometime next week.

On Friday, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials took a helicopter flight over the area and said the lava was moving very slowly with very little vegetation burning. They said the flow had advanced only about 150 yards since the previous day.

While the agency has yet to issue an evacuation order, some people are trying to move livestock out of the subdivision, including cattle, pigs and horses.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Friday signed an emergency proclamation in preparation for lava crossing a major highway, which could cut off access to communities in the lava's path. His proclamation could allow officials to open abandoned roads as alternate routes.

Lava Heading Toward Hawaii Homes, Emergency Declared
SLOW CREEP

This is not an eruption at the caldera, the things that make for stunning pictures as deeply red lava spews from the mountaintop.

Instead, it is lava slowly moving down the volcano's flank through a heavily forested area. The forest's thick tangles of vegetation and tall trees make it difficult to see, said Janet Babb, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

WHO IS AT RISK?

Officials do not yet know exactly how many homes could be threatened by the lava flow, and they are conducting door-to-door interviews in the Kaohe Homesteads to get a count.

The subdivision is in Puna, a lush, agricultural district where papaya is a major crop. Everyone in the district about a 30-minute drive from the coastal town of Hilo lives on the volcano.

Officials have warned residents in the greater Puna region to be on alert because the lava could change direction and threaten other communities.

The state Department of Health advised residents near the lava flow to prepare for smoke from burning vegetation and low levels of sulfur dioxide. The smoke could trigger respiratory conditions.

COUNTRY-STYLE LIVING

Why would someone live on an active volcano? Unlike Honolulu, the state's biggest city on the island of Oahu, the Big Island's Puna region still has affordable land and can offer a more rural way of life.

Located on the island's southeast side, the area is made up of subdivisions like Kaohe Homesteads that have unpaved roads of volcanic rock that are not maintained by the county.

"It's got a country-style living that appeals to people and that's somewhat rare in Hawaii," county spokesman Kevin Dayton said. "People there live off the grid on solar and catchment water systems. It's sort of an independent type of person who's willing to rough it a little bit."

People who live there also know the risks. Dayton said there are special insurance requirements to buy land in certain lava zones.

HOW LONG WILL THE RISK REMAIN?

No one knows for sure if the lava flow will stop, change direction or hit homes. It also is difficult to predict when the flow will stop or if it will start again from another vent.

In the 1990s, about 200 homes were destroyed by lava flows from Kilauea.

The last evacuations from the volcano came in 2011. One home was destroyed and others were threatened before the lava changed course.

CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE

Kilauea is home to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. At a community meeting Thursday, some residents expressed anger at suggestions to divert the flow. They say it's culturally insensitive to interfere with Pele's will.

YOUNG VOLCANO

The U.S. Geological Survey says Kilauea is the youngest volcano on Hawaii Island, and she hides her age well. Officials estimate Kilauea's first eruption happened between 300,000 and 600,000 years ago.

DON'T CANCEL VACATION PLANS

Officials with Hawaii's tourism industry say there's no need for potential visitors to alter their vacation plans. The lava flow is an isolated event and won't affect plans to snorkel, surf or tan.

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