Slithering lava sends Hawaii residents from homes

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Fast-moving lava headed for town on Hawaii's Big Island - updated 12/24/14
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Slithering lava sends Hawaii residents from homes
PAHOA, HI - OCTOBER 30: Lava from the Kilauea Volcano flows across the ground on October 30, 2014 in Pahoa, Hawaii. 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 Andrew Hara/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HAWAII - OCTOBER 27: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a aerial view of the front of the June 27th lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano on October 27, 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 27: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a aerial view of the front of the June 27th lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano on October 27, 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 27: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), The June 27th lava flow burns through thick vegetation below the pasture downslope of the Pa-hoa cemetery on October 27, 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 26: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), A portion of the front of the June 27th lava flow burns through thick vegetation and a fence on October 26, 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 26: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), an HVO geologist walks across the surface of the lava flow, which covers the short access road to the Pa-hoa cemetery on October 26, 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 26: In this handout provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a HVO geologist maps the margin of the June 27th lava flow in the open field below Apa'a Street and Cemetery Road on October 26, 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)
(Image courtesy: ABC News)
(Image courtesy: ABC News)
(Image courtesy: ABC News)
In this photograph taken on October 25, 2014, a photographer runs as Mount Sinabung volcano erupts with ash clouds, as seen from Karo District on Sumatra island. Super heated lava and giant ash clouds reaching two kilometers into the air spewed from the crater of Mount Sinabung volcano threatening villages during its recent series of eruptions. Sinabung began erupting on September 2013 and in February 2014 an eruption killed about 17 people while more than 33,000 residents were forced to flee their homes. AFP PHOTO / Sutanta ADITYA (Photo credit should read SUTANTA ADITYA/AFP/Getty Images)
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PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) - Lava is expected to slither past properties across the street from Jeff and Denise Lagrimas' home on Hawaii's Big Island as it works its way to the ocean.

But they are packing up to leave for a town 14 miles away, so they won't know whether that prediction comes true or whether the molten rock oozes into their home instead.

"I don't want to stick around and just wait for it to come and take it," Denise Lagrimas said while taking a break from loading kitchen cups and bowls in cardboard boxes. "You just never know."

The lava was about 280 yards from the main road in Pahoa, the commercial center of Puna, a sprawling, mostly agricultural district on the Big Island, civil defense officials in Hawaii County said Wednesday.

The flow from Kilauea volcano entered private property next to the main road and was burning tires and other materials, prompting authorities to warn downwind residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors. The lava was edging forward at about 11 yards per hour and slowed early Wednesday to about 5.5 yards per hour, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

It burned down an empty shed Tuesday.

The molten stream picked up speed last week after weeks of slow, stop-and-go movement. It broke out of forest and pastureland and crossed into inhabited areas for the first time since scientists began warning about lava in August.

Pahoa residents have had weeks to prepare for what's been described as a slow-motion disaster. Most have either already left or are prepared to go.

At least 50 or 60 structures - including homes and businesses - are in an area that officials warn will likely be hit.

Josiah Hunt, who has farm in a part of Puna that was not immediately threatened, described smelling burning grass, feeling warmth from the lava and hearing "popping and sizzling and all the methane bursts that are happening in the distance ... mixed with the birds chirping and the coqui frogs."

With the flow threatening, the Lagrimas family decided to move to Kurtistown, a safe distance away.

"We didn't want to go anywhere where it's close enough where we would have to evacuate again," Denise Lagrimas said.

They also worried the lava will block roads leading out of Pahoa and prevent them from commuting to their jobs in the coastal town of Hilo to the north. Then there was the prospect of subsequent flows gradually swallowing more of the community, which is what happened to the Royal Garden and Kalapana subdivisions in the 1980s and 1990s.

"It's so surreal, it's so surreal. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid growing up did I think I would be running from lava," Denise Lagrimas said.

Some people want to watch the lava destroy their homes as a way to cope with the loss.

"You can only imagine the frustration as well as ... despair they're going through," Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said.

Hunt watched last week as the lava crept toward Pahoa and spotted a woman whose house is near its path put a lei at the front of the flow.

"It helps a person come to grips with the reality of the situation," he said. "I found it to be oddly comforting in a really strange way."

Terri Mulroy, who runs Kumu Aina Farm with her husband, said the lava, while unnerving, has a cleansing quality to it because it keeps development on the lush Hawaiian island in check.

"If it wasn't for the flow, I wouldn't be able to live here," she said. "This land would have been a golf course for the rich."

Hawaii Lava Flow Hits Property, Threatens Dozens More

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