Businesses plan to reopen as Hawaii lava flow stalls

By Karin Stanton
Lava flow from the Kilauea volcano is pictured having breached a fence but stopped feet away from a transfer station outside the village of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island December 8, 2014. REUTERS/Karin Stanton

By Karin Stanton

KAILUA-KONA, HAWAII (Reuters) - The leading edge of a lava flow from a volcano that threatened a commercial center on Hawaii's Big Island appeared on Friday to have stalled again, prompting several businesses to make plans to reopen their doors.

The front of the flow, one of three fingers of lava approaching Pahoa Village from the Kilauea Volcano's June 27 eruption, is less than half a mile (.8 km) from the main highway that connects more than 10,000 residents with the rest of Hawaii Island.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said on Friday the flow edge remains active and continues to widen above the tip, but it has shown very little activity at the forefront since Wednesday.

Authorities last month said the lava was likely to reach the intersection of Pahoa Village Road, where the shops are situated, and the highway within days. An earlier branch of the lava flow stalled just feet from a recycling transfer station.

While the threat remains, several businesses in the Malama Marketplace shopping center are making plans to reopen.

Ace Hardware representatives said they plan to reopen on Feb. 1, and a Longs Drugs Store in a nearby complex could open as soon as Monday. Several smaller restaurants, markets and boutiques are also preparing to resume operations but have not set a date.

"We are trying to reopen for the residents, but we have no definitive date yet," said Vinia Rosa, a manager at a Longs Drugs Store in the nearby city of Hilo, about the Pahoa Village location.

The store, which employs about 50 people, has been closed since Dec. 20.

The mood in town has eased from recent months when the flow menaced the old plantation town, prompting officials and residents to prepare for the worst.

"The mood in town is very upbeat. It's busy with people and you can just feel the positive energy," said Mark Hinshaw, president of the Pahoa Main Street business association. "It's all moving full steam ahead."

(Editing by Curtis Skinner; and Clarence Fernandez)