HILO, Hawaii — The Kilauea volcano erupted from its summit Thursday morning, spewing an ash plume that reached 30,000 feet above the island of Hawaii, authorities said.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a “code red” warning that additional activity could be expected.
“At any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,” the observatory said.
But Dr. Michelle Coombs of the U.S. Geological Survey said that ash fall from the eruption, which occurred shortly after 4 a.m. local time, was “pretty limited” to the area around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
“The ash cloud went very high but wasn’t that voluminous,” Coombs said in an interview. “This is not a huge catastrophic event.”
She emphasized that the new eruption wasn’t the “big one” that some here are fearing, drawing a contrast with the eruption in 1980 of Mount St. Helens in Washington state which killed 57 people.
“There may not necessarily be a big one, based on past eruptions at Kilauea,” Coombs said. Still, she warned that the volcano may have a series of explosions in the days and weeks ahead.
A heavy rain was falling early Thursday over Hilo, the main city on the island. The moisture could make ash fall heavier, rendering roads unusable and exposing crops to damage. Television announcers warned residents to remain indoors, avoid driving and cover air intakes.
Coombs said that staff at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the rim of Kilauea Caldera had relocated temporarily to the Hilo campus of the University of Hawaii. “We were worried about potential damage,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times