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Phone service providers make lava plans

It’s not known when, or even if, lava from Kilauea Volcano’s June 27 flow will reach Pahoa town or cross Highway 130, but the leading edge of the flow again started to advance over the weekend after stalling for several days. Among those using the time granted by the molten rock’s slow advance to prepare for a potential disaster are telephone service providers.

Why do lava flows stop advancing?

Much scientific study has been done to determine what types of eruptions produce long lava flows. In the 1970s, a very simple idea seemed to guide future work — the length of a lava flow is limited by either the supply of lava or by how well the lava is thermally insulated during its transport to the flow front.

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The June 27 flow advances toward Pahoa

In an Aug. 22 news release, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory stated that a new lava flow, dubbed the June 27 flow for the date it began, was rapidly advancing toward residential areas near Pahoa in the Puna District of Hawaii Island. By that time, the flow had entered a pre-existing ground crack, which channeled the flow to the east. The crack eventually filled and lava emerged from its lower end, only to spill into an adjacent crack. This process was repeated several times during the following days, with some ground cracks capturing and directing the flow, while others were filled as lava advanced across them. The average advance rate for the flow during this period was about 820 feet per day.