Some Pahoa businesses are on high alert as it appears lava is heading on a path directly toward Pahoa Marketplace.
Hawaii County Civil Defense says the lava could reach Pahoa Marketplace in seven to 10 days, which is around Christmas.
The lava is now about a mile from the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road, and less than a mile from the back of the Pahoa Marketplace complex, administrator Darryl Oliveira said Tuesday.
Oliveira said emergency officials briefed tenants Monday night and Tuesday morning. The marketplace houses a few restaurants, office operations, financial institutions, medical clinic, hardware store, grocery store and supermarket, and automotive repair and tire shop.
“It is still very early, but knowing they need time to decrease their footprint on the ground there and save as much as they can, some of the bigger stores will be initiating some action sooner than others,” Oliveira said.
Several businesses in the marketplace have already announced closures.
Malama Mart Gas N Go fuel station will close at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Co-owner Aloha Petroleum will take the appropriate steps to remove the fuel from the underground storage tanks and remove equipment from the station in the next three days, according to a media release. Emergency officials said fuel will be pumped out and the tanks filled with water and foam.
Then, on Thursday, two more businesses will close.
Eyeland EyeDoc will suspend operations and relocate its eye care services to downtown Hilo starting in January.
Special “Lava Clinic Days,” by appointment only, will be set up at Pahoa Community Center to deliver eyewear and offer medical services for patients who cannot get to the Hilo location.
“Our hearts are broken but our spirits are full of aloha and full of resolve to rise again for Puna; we’ll see everyone again soon,” said co-owner Dr. Sandor Hernandez Morales.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Malama Market Pahoa will close. The store started to disassemble and remove equipment Tuesday.
“In addition to the impact you’d have on sales and business operations, the potential for affecting people’s jobs and livelihood, an office forced to close temporarily and people either laid off or put on unpaid leave,” Oliveira said.
Civil Defense has not yet issued an evacuation order for Pahoa Marketplace.
“There’s a lot of variable or factors that play into whether or not the flow gets to the Marketplace area. It could stall and stop as we saw with the original flow that came down to Pahoa Village,” Oliveira said.
As for homes in Pahoa, Civil Defense says there’s no immediate threat. But the lava does have the potential to affect residents if it crosses through the Marketplace or if the lava moves in a different direction.
The following story aired on Monday, Dec. 15: