Hawaii's Kilauea volcano continues to erupt, creating lava-oozing fissures and prompting new concerns about possible toxic gas, acid rain, and flying refrigerator-sized boulders. "We know it is a distinct possibility".
The Leilani Estates residential area remains in greatest danger, with 15 volcanic fissures so far having destroyed 36 structures, a lot of them homes, and forcing the evacuation of about 2000 residents.
US President Trump declared a major disaster in the Kilauea island of Hawaii days after series of quake and volcanic eruption.
Volcanologists believe these explosions happen when a lava lake - a large volume of molten lava often contained in a crater or volcanic vent - drops and groundwater is able to seep into the resulting shaft, or lava tube.
Smigelski-Theiss says she's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island. But so far, the sequence of events seems similar to explosive eruptions that took place at the volcano in 1924.
Local meteorologists said the change in prevailing winds could send Kilauea's volcanic smog, or vog, north-west to Maui and other islands in Hawaii.
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Trump approved the Hawaii governor's request declaring the state a "major disaster" late Friday night ahead of warnings that continuing volcanic eruptions could cause vast damage to the islands and its residents. No one lives in the immediate area of the summit.
While locals contend with lava and gas on the ground, explosions at Kilauea's summit some 25 miles (40 km) to the west were dusting communities with ash that irritated eyes and breathing. Smigelski-Theiss says she's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island. But Kilauea could release hotter, faster-moving and more voluminous lava because magma has moving into the area from further up the volcano, she said.
Authorities previously ordered almost 2,000 residents to leave the neighborhoods in and around the vents in the mostly rural district of Puna. "This is three football fields going down", Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, said.
In little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to nearly 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning, Mandeville said.
The explosions would "provide very little warning", officials say, and could send "ballistic projectiles" - from the size of small pebbles to giant rocks - into the sky. In April, swarms of earthquakes began in the area, and in May the crater began erupting, ejecting gas, ash and boulders up to 14 tons during 50 eruptions over the course of two and a half weeks.
Gov. David Ige said crews at a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak accelerated the removal of stored flammable fuel as a precaution.