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Park officials await branch of lava flow slowly approaching

A slow-moving tongue of molten rock that recently broke off from the main flow of lava on the Big Island is inching its way closer to the boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and, not far from there, the Pacific Ocean. The swath of lava is just west of the main flow that has for years run toward what is called the Waikupanaha ocean entry on the island's southeast side. The new flow is likely to breach the national park boundary later this week. "It's not a terribly threatening flow." National Park Service officials are gearing up for the flow to cross onto federal land but are hesitant to predict when or whether it will crawl another mile to reach the ocean. "It's a dynamic and unpredictable phenomenon," which also could stop and crust over or turn in another direction. On Monday, Geological Survey volcanologists walked along the perimeter of the flow with hand-held global positioning system devices to measure its location. It had moved several hundred feet in three directions since the previous measurement 10 days before. The swath measured a mile or more across. No lava has reached national park land since last year. The land the flow is covering now as it approaches the park border is part of the mostly abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision. Only one resident continues to stay in the subdivision.

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