Ki­lauea blasts huge ash plume 30,000 feet into Hawai­ian sky.

Lava de­stroys 26 homes; tourism dis­rupted on Big Is­land

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY SOPHIA YAN AND AU­DREY MCAVOY

HONOLULU | Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano erupted anew be­fore dawn Thurs­day, shoot­ing a steely gray plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky that be­gan raining down on a nearby town.

The ex­plo­sion at the mountain sum­mit came shortly af­ter 4 a.m. fol­low­ing two weeks of vol­canic ac­tiv­ity that sent lava flows into neigh­bor­hoods and de­stroyed at least 26 homes.

The erup­tion prob­a­bly lasted only a few min­utes, and the ash ac­cu­mu­la­tions were min­i­mal, with only trace amounts ex­pected near the vol­cano, said Mike Poland, a geo­physi­cist with the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey.

Some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity clos­est to the vol­cano slept through the blast, said Kanani Aton, a spokes­woman for Hawaii County Civil De­fense, who spoke to rel­a­tives and friends in the town called Vol­cano.

At least one per­son who was awake heard noth­ing. Epic Lava tour op­er­a­tor John Tar­son is an early-riser and said he only learned about the erup­tion be­cause he re­ceived an alert on his phone.

Mr. Tar­son said the ash plume looked dif­fer­ent than oth­ers he’s wit­nessed be­cause of its sheer height. A video he shared on Face­book showed a tow­er­ing col­umn of ash reach­ing into a hazy sky.

“What I no­ticed is the plume was just rising straight into the air, and it was not tip­ping in any direc­tion,” he said.

“We’ve been ex­pect­ing this, and a lot of peo­ple are go­ing to see it and get ex­cited and scared,” he added.

Au­thor­i­ties cau­tioned that wind could carry the ash as far as Hilo. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice is­sued an ash ad­vi­sory until noon. Sev­eral schools closed be­cause of the risk of el­e­vated lev­els of sul­fur diox­ide, a vol­canic gas.

Robert Hughes owns the Aloha Junction Bed and Break­fast, about a mile and a half from the crater. He said he did not hear any­thing ei­ther and is in an area that did not get any ash.

So far, he said, Thurs­day has been a “nice rainy day.”

His busi­ness has been hit hard by fears of the vol­cano, once an at­trac­tion for visi­tors. He said he’s lost hun­dreds of reser­va­tions and had just three guests Thurs­day in­stead of the 12 to 14 he has typ­i­cally served.

One of the guests was a news reporter. The other two were from Italy.

“In the old days, peo­ple used to love to come see the vol­cano. They’d even take their lit­tle post­cards, burn one cor­ner in the lava flow, mail then off, stuff like that,” Mr. Hughes said. “Now they’re act­ing like it’s all su­per-dan­ger­ous and ev­ery­thing, but it just kind oozes out.”

The crater sits within Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, which has been closed since May 11 be­cause of the risk of a more vi­o­lent erup­tion.

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

Ki­lauea is one of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes. An erup­tion in 1924 killed one per­son and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

Sci­en­tists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the sum­mit might cre­ate con­di­tions for an ex­plo­sion that could fling ash and re­frig­er­a­tor­sized boul­ders into the air.

Ge­ol­o­gists pre­dicted such a blast would mostly re­lease trapped steam from flash-heated ground­wa­ter. Com­mu­ni­ties a mile or two away could be show­ered by pea-size fragments or dusted with non­toxic ash, they said.

The vol­cano has been erupt­ing con­tin­u­ously since 1983. It’s one of five vol­ca­noes on Hawaii’s Big Is­land, and the only one cur­rently erupt­ing.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Clouds, ash and vol­canic gases hang over Hawaii’s Big Is­land, on Thurs­day af­ter Ki­lauea erupted from the sum­mit crater ear­lier in the day.

Ki­lauea erupted from its sum­mit, shoot­ing a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky. Mike Poland, a geo­physi­cist with the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey, con­firmed the ex­plo­sion Thurs­day. It comes af­ter more than a dozen fis­sures opened miles to the east of the crater and spewed lava into neigh­bor­hoods.

A Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory ge­ol­o­gist mon­i­tors the ver­ti­cal off­set across the cracks in Leilani Es­tates in Pahoa, Hawaii.

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