Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted explosively on Thursday, sending a plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the predawn sky.
A webcam at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory caught the aftermath of the eruption on film: an onslaught of wet and dusty ash raining down on a darkened landscape. From the summit of Mauna Loa volcano, 20 miles away, cameras photographed an anvil-shaped plume billowing on the horizon.
Scientists had warned for days about a major eruption as the lava lake that once filled the crater at Kilauea’s summit began draining back into the ground. Their concern was that the sinking molten rock would create steam as it interacted with the water table and that the steam would then jet upward, hurling rocks into the sky.
The US Geological Survey reported that the greatest impact was to an area within a few hundred yards of the summit’s eruptive vent. But wind would carry the plume from the eruption southeast, potentially raining ash into nearby communities, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency warned. Residents were instructed to shelter in place if they found themselves in the path of the ash plume.
Depending on weather conditions, USGS said, ash might fall as far as Hilo, 30 miles to the northeast.
The massive shield volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is the site of the world’s longest ongoing eruption, oozing lava since 1983. But in recent weeks the volcano has become particularly restless. Fissures opened in communities along the volcano’s eastern slopes, prompting evacuations and engulfing dozens of homes in lava.