Hawaiian officials called a state of emergency Thursday for portions of the Big Island after advancing lava from the Kilauea volcano came within a mile of a subdivision and threatened to cut off the major road serving the area.
“We are taking this step to ensure our residents have time to prepare their families, their pets, and their livestock for a safe and orderly evacuation from Ka‘ohe in the event the flow continues to advance,” Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said in a statement, referring to the Ka‘ohe subdivision.
Kenoi called for the state of emergency after U.S. Geological Survey officials raised the lava threat from a watch to a warning for subdivisions in the Wao Kele o Puna area. A USGS warning means a hazardous lava flow is imminent and underway.
The subdivisions under threat are about 15 miles south of Hilo. According to Kenoi's request for help from Gov. Neil Abercrombie, at least 8,200 people live in the area that could potentially be cut off. Kenoi said the lava was expected to cross Highway 130, which he described as the "only major thoroughfare" serving the area.
In a statement, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said civil defense employees would conduct door-to-door visits to encourage residents to prepare to evacuate.
Officials on Thursday limited access to the subdivision roads to residents only and urged others to stay away.
“The lava cannot be seen from the subdivision, and there is no reason for nonresidents to be in the Ka‘ohe subdivision at this time,” Oliveira said.
Officials from the Hawaii County Civil Defense Administration and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are holding public meetings to update residents on the lava flow.