Kilauea Spews Boulders in 5-Mile-High Eruption

Excited and scared: Hawaii volcano spews huge cloud of ash

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Geophysicist with the US Geological Survey (USGS) Mike Poland said the explosion probably lasted only a few minutes and the ash accumulations were minimal, with only trace amounts expected near the volcano.

"This is the sort of explosive activity that was anticipated", Poland told The Post. "I think it's going to be a series of explosions similar to the one that happened this morning, and that's based on what happened in 1924, which is really our only analog".

Michelle Coombes said the eruption had temporarily relieved some pressure in the volcano but there may be more, larger powerful events.

"I don't think there is a big one that's coming", said University of Hawaii vulcanologist Scott Rowland. "Persons with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling the ash particles and all persons outside should cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth". The volcano erupted on Thursday morning and molten rock has been spewing out since then.

"And it is not likely to turn into some catastrophic event", he added. Last week, scientists said that if Kilauea's lava lake drains too fast, it could trigger explosions that hurl refrigerator-size boulders into the air.

But he also reminded potential tourists that Big Island was still welcoming visitors.

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Halemaumau is the crater within Kilauea's summit caldera.

It is among the five volcanoes that form the Big Island, and it is the only one actively erupting.

An ash plume Wednesday rose roughly 12,000 feet into the air, and on Tuesday, the USGS issued a red alert, which means a major eruption is imminent or underway and ash could affect air traffic.

What is happening at Kīlauea is fundamentally different from that 1980 eruption, experts said. Shield volcanoes like Kilauea produce runny, basaltic lava that does not tend to erupt as dramatically as steep stratovolcanos like Mount St. Helens. He's making sure the hundreds of evacuees that are using the shelter have food and a place to sleep, as well as any comfort they need during the stressful time.

The noxious gas, normally emitted at risky levels only from the volcano's Halemaumau Crater, was seeping at a greater rate from the fissures in Leilani Estates, a residential area of about four square miles in the Big Island's Puna district.

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

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