HONOLULU (AP) — Lava threatening rural communities on Hawaii's Big Island has essentially stalled for now, officials said Monday, but that isn't putting anyone at ease.
A Hawaii County Civil Defense flight over the area found that the surface flow had not advanced in the past 24 hours.
This has been the slowest advance rate since scientists began warning the public of the approaching lava from Kilauea volcano about a month ago.
Officials aren't attributing any significance to the lack of activity because it is common for lava to stop and start or move in unexpected directions, county spokesman Kevin Dayton said.
"When you see this from the air, it has this look of inevitability to it," Dayton said of the lava's slow creep toward Pahoa, possibly to hit businesses and homes and cover a major highway that's a lifeline for residents in the isolated Puna district.
Work is expected to be completed by Wednesday to turn two defunct, unpaved roads into alternate routes if lava crosses Highway 130, Dayton said.
The road work, estimated to cost as much as $2 million, is progressing as scheduled, even though a lock was broken and 100 gallons of diesel fuel was taken last week from a private bulldozer contracted by the county.
It's been estimated the lava could reach roads in a matter of weeks, with the exact number of days fluctuating with changes in the lava's path and progression.
The slowing in recent days might be due to a reduction in lava supply at the summit of the volcano, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a Sunday update. The flow advance rate could increase again in the coming days.
Russell Bellman, whose family owns Pahoa Village Center, said they are making preparations but for now it's just mostly a waiting game. The center has 10 tenants, including medical offices, a video store and a restaurant.
"If it did go south ... we're separated from customers and that's bad," he said. "If it goes right through us, it gets burned down. ... If it goes north of us, we get cut off from the rest of the island.
"You know it's coming and it's utterly destructive and there's nothing you can do to stop it."
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .