Longs Drugs will be the next major retailer to close as the June 27 lava flow continues to threaten Pahoa.
The store will shut its doors at 1 p.m. today, leaving lower Puna without a pharmacy of its own.
“It’s awful to lose another store,” said Linda McNaughton of Kaohe Homesteads as she exited Longs on Friday.
“I lived here when Pahoa was small, but now that we have it,” she added, referring to the shopping area, “it’s really awful for it to be taken away.”
Seasonal and perishable items were steeply discounted, but most other items were left at full price. A few shelves were picked clean Friday.
The store employs about 15 people.
“We are praying to God that we can come back,” said Longs manager William Waiau.
McNaughton said she plans to use pharmacies at Longs locations in Hilo or Keaau instead. Those trips could get a lot longer if lava crosses Highway 130 and residents are forced to take unpaved alternate routes.
“It’s going to be inconvenient,” she said.
Longs is located in Woodland Center across Pahoa Village Road from Pahoa Marketplace, the first shopping center threatened by the flow. As of Friday, lava remained about 0.6 mile from the back of the marketplace, which has lost its largest tenants.
Malama Market closed Thursday, leaving residents with a natural food store and a few small groceries or convenient stores to buy food. Ace Hardware closed at the same time.
Darryl Oliveria, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said Friday 13 of 21 businesses in the marketplace had closed or were closing.
He said the others planned to stay open as long as they could, and each planned to return if their locations are spared.
As of Friday morning, the flow advanced another 130 yards. At that rate, it could reach the marketplace in about eight days, Oliveira said.
It remained 0.8 mile from the highway.
No evacuation order has been issued. That may occur when lava is estimated to be three days from reaching the marketplace in order to give utilities time to disconnect their services, he said.
Suzy Kruppa, one of the marketplace owners, said the shopping center should not be considered closed or abandoned.
“The rest are staying open so people can go eat,” she said. “It’s obviously a dark cloud but it does have a silver lining, that everybody is working together.”
The flow has slowed since the beginning of the week when it was advancing about 300 yards per day.
Steve Brantley, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory deputy scientist-in-charge, said breakouts upslope might be robbing the flow front of lava.
The flow could also be slowed by its front splitting into two lobes.
Brantley said it appeared the south lobe had stalled Friday morning.
The eruption at Puu Oo on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone is remaining fairly consistent, and geologists aren’t expecting a decrease in volume of lava entering the flow’s tube system.
Brantley said Thursday evening about 420 gallons of lava is moving through the flow’s tube system each second.
That’s consistent with recent flow rates but is 60 percent of the peak flow rate in August.
If the flow continues to slow its advance, it’s unlikely it will reach businesses by Christmas.
Asked about his Christmas wish, Oliveira said it would be to have the eruption again send lava to non-populated areas.
“If the flow was to resume activity in the national park, I think definitely that would make everyone’s life better and easier and allow for the eruption to take place in an area where people can still enjoy the unique beauty of it and phenomenon of it without an impact to the community,” he said.
“If you are asking me, that would be it.”