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

HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on the Big Island erupted, firing a cloud of steam and ash into the atmosphere that lasted about an hour, a National Weather Service official said early Monday.

The eruption began late Sunday in the crater of Kilauea’s summit, the US Geological Survey said. The crater, called 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 caused it to drain.

Tom Birchard, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Hawaii, said lava interacted with a pool of water that had collected in the crater, triggering a short-lived but quite powerful eruption.

When lava interacts with water, it can cause explosive reactions.

All the water evaporated from the lake, and a cloud of steam shot into the atmosphere about six miles (9 kilometers), Birchard said.

The water was the first ever recorded in the summit crater of Kilauea Volcano.

In 2019, after a week of questions about a mysterious green spot at the bottom of the volcano crater, researchers confirmed the presence of water. The lake had since been flooded.

An advisory was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, warning of fallen ash from the volcano. Overexposure to ash is irritating to the eyes and respiratory system, he said. The agency later said the eruption was diminishing and that there was a “low cloud of steam” in the area.

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

“It’s pretty spectacular this morning,” she said, “but there are huge amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas and particulate matter and those waves are now coming out of the crater and they’re a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems. women. “

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

“There are many cars waiting on Crater Rim Drive to look at Kilauea. People are allowed to wait a long time in parking lots, ”she said.

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

“We’re not doing crowd control yet, but it can happen,” she said. “At the moment we urge people to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We saw quite a few visitors exposed last night. “

At 1 a.m., USGS officials told Hawaii News Now that there were lava fountains shooting about 50 feet into the air.

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

“We will send further reports about Kilauea and other Hawaiian volcanoes as we observe changes,” he said.

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake on the magnitude of about an hour after the volcano started erupting.

The USGS said it received more than 500 reports from people feeling the earthquake, but no significant damage to buildings or structures was expected.

Kilauea last erupted in 2018, destroying more than 700 homes and spit out enough lava to fill 320,000 Olympic pools. An area more than half the size of Manhattan was buried in 24 meters of now hardened lava. The lava flowed over the course of four months.

The 2018 eruption took place along a canyon zone on the flank of the volcano where many residential areas had been developed. Last night’s eruption was confined to the summit caldera in the national park.

The volcano had not erupted since 2018, but had active lava flows for more than three decades before that. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.


Associated Press journalist Julie Walker in New York City contributed to this report.