Hawaii volcano erupts anew, sends huge ash plume into sky
HONOLULU — Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted anew before dawn Thursday, shooting a steely gray plume of ash from its summit about 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) into the sky that began raining down on a nearby town.
The explosion came shortly after 4 a.m. following two weeks of volcanic activity that sent lava flows into neighborhoods and destroyed at least 26 homes.
The explosion probably lasted only a few minutes, and the ash accumulations were minimal, with only trace amounts expected near the volcano, said Mike Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
Some people in the community closest to the volcano slept through the explosion.
Kanani Aton, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County Civil Defense, said she spoke to several relatives and friends in the town called Volcano.
"They said they slept through it. They didn't hear it," Aton said.
Robert Hughes owns the Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast, about a mile and a half from the crater. He said he did not hear anything either and is in an area that did not get any ash.
So far, he said, Thursday has been a "nice rainy day."
His business has been hit hard by the volcano, once an attraction for visitors. He said he's lost hundreds of reservations and had just three guests Thursday, when he previously had been serving 12 to 14 at a time.
One of the guests was a news reporter. The other two were from Italy.
"In the old days, people used to love to come see the volcano. They'd even take their little postcards, burn one corner in the lava flow, mail then off, stuff like that," he said. "Now they're acting like it's all super-dangerous and everything, but it just kind oozes out."
The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11 because of the risk of a more violent eruption.
Officials have said the eruption isn't likely to be dangerous as long as people stay out of the closed park.
Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.
Scientists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for an explosion that could fling ash and boulders the size of refrigerators into the air.
Geologists predicted it would mostly release trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater. Communities a mile or two away may be showered by pea-size fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash, they said.
The volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983. It's one of five volcanoes on Hawaii's Big Island, and the only one currently erupting.
Associated Press Writer Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.