After an eruption from the Kilauea volcano's summit shot ash and smoke 30,000 feet into the air on Thursday, officials handed out nearly 18,000 masks to help residents deal with the fallout.
The wind could carry Kilauea's ash plume as far as Hilo, the Big Island's largest city and a major tourism center, the County of Hawaii Civil Defense warned in an alert.
The noxious gas, normally emitted at unsafe 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.
Some Big Island residents had feared "the big one" after Kilauea shot anvil-sized "ballistic blocks" into the visitors' auto park on Wednesday and was rocked by earthquakes that damaged buildings and cracked roads in the park that was closed last week.
U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland says the explosion likely only lasted a few minutes. More than a dozen fissures oozing lava have opened in the ground.
"We could have additional events like this morning that punch up then die down really quickly, we could have more sustained ash coming out of Halema'uma'u", she said. It's been sluggish and somewhat cooler as a result, she said.
Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting continuously since 1983. "Shelter in place if you are in the path of the ash plume". Lisa Murkowski said in a statement after Thursday's vote.
People watch at a golf course as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Wednesday
Credit Mario Tama Getty
HVO on Hawaii island was the first such observatory in the United States and has been monitoring volcanoes for more than a century, according to Hirono.
It was not the big blast scientists have been warning could come from the crater any time, and that threat - of an explosion that could produce flying boulders the size of cows - remained unchanged late Thursday.
Following the eruption from the Kilauea summit crater, a webcam at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory captured this image of wet ash raining down and splattering on the window.
"We know what people are going through in Leilani Estates. They'd even take their little postcards, burn one corner in the lava flow, mail them off, stuff like that", he said.
The crater spewing ash sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11 as a safety precaution over risks of a violent eruption.
News coverage of the Big Island events have been pretty balanced, Tolentino said, but noted that inaccuracies have not helped, especially when a national news outlet reported Oahu residents were forced to evacuate.
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