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Kilauea Lava Flow May Force Evacuations in Hawaii

A searing lava flow may force evacuations in Pahoa, Hawaii, a small town on the eastern side of Hawaii's Big Island, this week.

"The lava flow heading toward Pahoa is very narrow, but the east rift zone, an area that essentially acts as a funnel, has the lava on a fast track toward the town," said Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

According to the USGS, the flow will likely advance into an even steeper path toward Pahoa early this week. This may increase the speed of the flow toward the town.

The lava, at about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, is capable of destroying essentially anything in its path. However, lava flows can be erratic and unpredictable.

The residents of Pahoa will have to monitor the situation very closely.

In total, the flow near Pahoa was about 105 feet wide and moving northeast at about 30 feet per hour according to the Associated Press. The leading edge of the lava flow is about half of a mile away from the center of town.

On Friday, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration to assist the community impacted by the lava flow.

The lava flow is stemming from the Pu'u O'o crater which taps molten rock from beneath Kilauea Volcano. Pu'u O'o has been erupting almost continuously since 1983.

"The lava from Kilauea typically flows along the steepest path, a path that has previously taken the lava southeastward, ultimately into the Pacific Ocean away from Pahoa," said Andrews.

"However, a northward shift in the direction of the flow in late June put the lava on a new path, the one that now has Pahoa at risk," added Andrews.

Residents in the area are urged to follow the latest guidance and warnings from local officials this week.