Hawaii’s Kilauea eruption creates fiery show; visitors flock to summit

Published: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:18 AM EDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/Gray News) - After a months-long pause, Kilauea is once again erupting at its summit, sending up fiery fountains as high as 100 feet and flooding the floor of Halemaumau Crater with lava.

Ken Hon, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, said the eruption started about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday and that lava is confined within the crater, KHNL reported. At this time, there are no threats to any buildings or nearby communities as the eruption is within Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.

However, officials said that volcanic gas and heavy vog could become a concern as the eruption was sending up thick plumes into the air. Officials also warned of rocks and tephra getting blasted from the crater as well as Pele’s hair, which are tiny strands of fiberglass floating in the air.

Kilauea visitors
Kilauea visitors(Hawaii News Now)

Hon said the eruption Wednesday had a “very rapid onset.”

“It is completely confined in Halemaumau,” he said. “Lava is basically flooding the bottom of Halemaumau at this time, but there is no real high fountaining that can be seen outside of the caldera.”

Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the park service was already seeing a rush of spectators on Wednesday evening — and was bracing for big crowds Thursday.

“We’re excited, but we’re also cautious,” she said.

With Kilauea now erupting, here’s what you need to know for your trip to the summit

“It’s pretty unreal,” said one visitor at the park Wednesday night.

“We just came visiting and surprisingly it was going off. So we just stopped by to check it out.”

The eruption came after a day of increased activity at the volcano.

Just before midnight Tuesday, Hon said, earthquakes increased then migrated to the summit. They picked up again around noon Wednesday, prompting the Hawaii Volcano Observatory to raise the alert level to orange.

And then at 3:20 p.m., the alert level was raised to red when an eruption was confirmed.

“We were working on an announcement. We were going to red when the eruption started,” Hon said.

He said it’s not clear how long the eruption will last, but added that in the past 60 years or so eruptions within the caldera have typically lasted less than a year.

The last eruption at Kilauea ended in May after an explosive start five months earlier. During that eruption, about 11 billion gallons of lava erupted into the crater.

Read the coverage of the 2020 Kilauea eruption.

A 2018 eruption of Kilauea was by far the most destructive in modern history, spewing lava into lower Puna and destroying entire communities.

Officials stress the current eruption is at the summit and poses no immediate danger to area residents.

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