Explosive eruption in Hawaii prompts ashfall advisory

Senate aims to improve volcano warning system

Hawaii County officials have warned residents about sulfur dioxide, which is so thick in one area that authorities evacuated a neighborhood.

Rain kept the ash from going very far, and the ashfall was light, but officials still warned people in the area on Hawaii's Big Island to stay indoors and to use the masks.

An ash plume from the caldera was visible from her home about two miles away from the Halemaumau crater, but Ugalde said it appeared to be a smaller cloud than Tuesday's plume that shot ash some 12,000 feet into the air.

Lava illuminates volcanic gases (L) from the Kilauea volcano near fissure 13 on Hawaii's Big Island on May 16 - the summit of the volcano erupted on Thursday. But in recent weeks the volcano has become particularly restless. There are no inhabited areas within half-mile of Kilauea's summit; the primary risk would be to visitors entering the area, which is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

USGS geologists and staff were evacuated from the Kilauea summit shortly before the explosion.

As the molten rock dropped below the level of the water table, it's likely that water in the surrounding rock began pouring into the vacated chamber - much the way water rushes to fill a recently dug well, said Charlotte Rowe, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The bill also creates a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to provide continuous situational awareness of all active volcanoes in the USA and its territories, such as the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

The service says for most people the ash would cause eye and respiratory irritants with low level impacts for most people. 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. "I mean, I expected there would at least be one of the bigger earthquakes just before, or a boom or something".

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There have been no deaths or serious injuries reported during the current eruption.

What is happening at Kilauea is fundamentally different from that 1980 eruption, experts said.

USGS says since the 1980s, "eruptive activity has been continuous along the East Rift Zone" and the volcano ranks among the world's most active.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory moved to a university campus after concerns that Kilauea could hurl big rocks.

Officials have said the eruption isn't likely to be risky as long as people stay out of the closed park.

Neal said a chemical analysis of the lava that's erupted since last week indicated it's from magma that had been stored in the ground since a 1955 eruption. But ash could still present a problem for people with respiratory problems, and officials are monitoring the wind and weather patterns to predict where the ash from the volcano will go.

Some schools are closed following the explosion but there have been no additional evacuations.

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