Kilauea Spews Boulders in 5-Mile-High Eruption

Ash column rises from the crater at Kilauea in Hawaii. It is very tall and dark

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spewed ash almost six miles (9 km) into the sky on Thursday and scientists warned this could be the first in a string of more violent explosive eruptions with the next possibly occurring within hours.

A U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist described the pre-dawn explosive eruption at the summit of Kilauea as "short-lived" and not having a "widespread impact".

The US Geological Survey said the rocks and large pieces of splatter reached a height of 500 feet.

The National Weather Service issued an ash advisory and then extended it through early evening, and county officials distributed ash masks to area residents.

Geologists have warned that the volcano could become even more violent, with increasing ash production and the potential that future blasts could hurl boulders the size of cows from the summit.

The pictures, from Tuesday, were taken before thousands of residents on Hawaii's Big Island were ordered to flee the area after an alert was raised over an "explosive eruption" - not seen since 2014.

Officials who compare this to the events that took place in 1924 are suspecting that the volcanic activity will continue to happen.

Geologist inspects a crack in Hawaii. She is wearing a gas mask there is a lot of gas coming out of the fissure
Kilauea Spews Boulders in 5-Mile-High Eruption

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes and has been erupting continuously since 1983.

Scientists can not say why the eruption is happening now, given that Kilauea has been active for 35 years.

Although she could not say with certainty, Coombs said that the event appeared consistent with the dropping lava lake hitting ground water, as geologists have been expecting.

"We had vases fall down, pictures fall down", one resident said.

Dramatic photos show lava pouring into residential neighborhoods around a series of volcanic fissures that have opened.

In Pahoa, schools and the post office have been closed due to elevated levels of sulfur dioxide. "If it's red, it's get out of Dodge", she said. On the other hand, stratovolcanoes - which include Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines and Mount St. Helens in Washington State - are usually taller and have more viscous lava flows with trapped gas that can generate volatile explosions. Four hundred and eighteen acres of land have been added to Hawaii's Big Island by the new, cooled rock has settled into and risen above the surface of the ocean.

But by 1:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. EDT) reported ashfall was limited to only light, wet deposits about 3-4 miles (5-6 km) northwest of the summit, as rain over the volcano curbed the spread of ash.

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