Volcano erupts on Hawaii’s Big Island, draws crowds to park

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HONOLULU (AP) – Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii came back to life Sunday night as lava soared through the air, boiling a lake of water and sending out a huge plume of steam, of gas and ash in the atmosphere.

In the early hours of the eruption, lava quickly mixed with water in the summit crater lake to create steam. The sky above the eruption took on shades of orange and red as people lined up to watch the column of gas and vapor rise above the volcano in the middle of the night.

Tom Birchard, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Hawaii, said lava poured into the crater and mixed with the water to cause a vigorous eruption for about an hour. When lava interacts with water, it can cause explosive reactions.

All the water evaporated from the lake and a cloud of vapor spread about 9 kilometers into the atmosphere, Birchard said.

The water was the first ever recorded in the summit crater of the Kilauea volcano. In 2019, after a week of questions about a mysterious green spot at the bottom of the volcano’s crater, researchers confirmed the presence of water. The lake had continued to fill since.

The eruption began on Sunday night in the volcano’s caldera, the US Geological Survey said. Due to the location of the erupting lava, no houses were evacuated and there was little risk to the public. The crater, named Halemaumau, is located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and was home to a long-standing lava lake that was present for years before a 2018 eruption drained it.

The eruption continued throughout Monday and scientists said it was unclear how long it would last. The water having disappeared, a lake of lava formed in the crater throughout the day.

An advisory was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu warning of ash that fell from the volcano. Excessive exposure to ash is an eye and respiratory irritant, he says. The agency later said the eruption was subsiding and a “low-level cloud of vapor” persisted in the area.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said in a telephone interview that volcanic activity poses a risk to park residents and caution is in order.

“It’s pretty spectacular this morning,” she said, “but there are large amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide gases and particles and these are gushing out of the crater right now and these present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women. “

She also said cars lined up at the park entrance to get a glimpse of the lava.

“There are a lot of cars waiting on Crater Rim Drive to get to Kilauea. People should expect long waits for parking spaces, ”she said.

Ferracane also said people should be aware of the coronavirus pandemic and take action to stay safe.

“We are not yet crowd control, but it could happen,” she said. “Right now, we are urging people to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We saw quite a few visitors unmasked last night.

At 1 a.m., USGS officials told Hawaii News Now that there were reports of lava fountains shooting about 50 yards into the sky.

David Phillips, a spokesperson for the Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, said the agency was monitoring the “rapidly evolving” situation.

“We will send further notifications to Kilauea and other Hawaiian volcanoes as we see changes,” he said.

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck about an hour after the volcano erupted.

The USGS said it has received more than 500 reports from people who …

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