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Giant rocks spewing from Hawaii volcano summit

/ 08:51 AM May 17, 2018

Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, near Pahoa, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

HONOLULU — Ash emissions from the summit at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano decreased, prompting the cancellation on Wednesday of an ash fall advisory.

There are occasional bursts of ash coming from the crater, causing ash to fall downwind to several communities, though there are only trace amounts, said the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Ash plumes on Tuesday had spouted as high as 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) into the air, scientists said.

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These plumes are separate from the lava eruptions happening about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the summit, where about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

Dense, large rocks roughly two feet in diameter (60 centimeters) were found in a parking lot a few hundred yards away from Kilauea’s summit crater, which reflects the “most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity,” the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in a statement. It continues to monitor the volcano’s activity.

Earthquakes continue to shake the Big Island, with the most severe at around 8:30 a.m. producing a 4.4 magnitude quake. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said, however, there is no tsunami alert as of this posting.

Scientists said earthquakes may shake loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state is forming a joint task force that could handle mass evacuations of the Big Island’s Puna district if lava from Kilauea volcano covers major roads and isolates the area. The troops may be needed for emergency evacuations, search and rescue, clearing debris and other duties.

On Tuesday, the volcano discharged ash because of rocks falling into the summit, United States Geological Survey (USGS) geophysicist Mike Poland said.

“There is very little wind at the summit,” he said. “The plume, it’s not near as ashy as it was yesterday, and it’s rising more or less vertically over the summit region.”

Because of the ash, USGS scientists operated from a backup command center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

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Poland did not have an immediate height on Wednesday’s plume since scientists were not staffing the observatory at the summit. They will have to rely on remote observations, he said.

“Things seem to be progressing largely as they have been, except for a shift in wind and less ash,” Poland said.

Scientists remained on alert for more violent activity. Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky. But it was not certain when or if that might happen.

For those on the ground near the lava vents, health warnings were issued because of dangerous volcanic gases.

An air-quality alert was in effect for an area near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision. That area was evacuated shortly after the eruption began May 3.

Most fissures are in that subdivision or the adjoining Leilani Estates neighborhood.

Several fissures remained active on Wednesday, producing lava spatter. Lava from one fissure that had been clearing a path toward the ocean, about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away, had not advanced in the last 24 hours.       /kga

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TAGS: Eruption, Explosion, Hawaii, Kilauea, Volcano
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