As the Kilauea volcano continued to relieve pressure on Tuesday, plumes of ash rose more than 12,000 feet into the air sending sediment and toxic gas all over the Big Island. Experts worry that the volcano still has a lot more activity left in it if the pressure below continues to escalate.
Government officials have told residents to remain indoors if they are within the path of the ash and poor air conditions. It has been more than a week since the first eruption and residents have been on edge ever since. Tuesday’s emergence of new activity stoked fears that the “big one” is looming in the distance.
Experts with the US Geological Survey (USGS) worry that a phreatic eruption is possible at the top of the Halemaumau crater located at the tip of the Kilauea volcano. This type of eruption has the possibility of sending ash traveling as far as 12 miles from the crater. Because of this threat, the USGS upgraded the aviation color code to red, meaning that aircraft should not be flying anywhere near the volcano. Red is the strongest warning level, as it means an eruption is either already happening or the event is imminent.
Although the ash, which has traveled as far as 18 miles away, is not poisonous, the resulting sulfur dioxide creates dangerous breathing conditions, especially for those people with compromised health. The Hawaii State Department of Health is asking that people take special care to avoid the fissures, as the gas emitted from these ground openings require a specific cartridge respirator to treat when inhaled. So far, more than 37 structures have been destroyed, but no lives have been lost.