The June 27 lava flow, named for the date it began erupting from a new vent, isn't an immediate threat to homes or structures downhill of the flow, but could become one in weeks or months if it continues to advance, the U.S. Geographical Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. The Kilauea volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983, but new vents - or points where lava reaches the surface - have opened up periodically.
As of Friday, lava was 2.4 miles from the eastern boundary of the Wao Kele o Puna Forest Reserve, which has been closed because of volcanic hazards. Scientists were planning to fly over the area Monday to get another update on the lava's progress.
Most of the lava flows from the volcano's east rift zone have pushed south, but this recent flow is moving northeast, which is unusual but not unprecedented, the observatory said.
The current flow is being channeled by two previous flows, which will make it move faster, said Jim Kauahikaua, the observatory's scientist-in-charge.
"It's time for the community to become aware of the situation," he said.
Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said the Kaohe homesteads are closest to the flow. Civil defense officials will be meeting with the community this week to inform residents about the threat and discuss evacuation plans.
It can be difficult to forecast the flow's exact path because it can be affected by subtle variations in topography, changes in lava volume and where and how lava enters or exits ground cracks along the rift zone, the observatory said.