Explosions ramp up at Kilauea's summit as ash clouds soar 11,000 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

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Explosions ramp up at Kilauea's summit as ash clouds soar 11,000 feet

Nearly continuous plumes of ash are pouring from Killauea's summit crater amid ongoing eruptions on the Big Island. (Image: USGS) Nearly continuous plumes of ash are pouring from Killauea's summit crater amid ongoing eruptions on the Big Island. (Image: USGS)
Huge plumes of ash poured from Halemaumau Crater as volcanic activity at the summit continued. (Image: Janice Wei) Huge plumes of ash poured from Halemaumau Crater as volcanic activity at the summit continued. (Image: Janice Wei)
A thick plume of ash pours out of Halemaumau Crater, sending ash as far away as Pahala. (Image: USGS) A thick plume of ash pours out of Halemaumau Crater, sending ash as far away as Pahala. (Image: USGS)
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PAHALA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A "nearly continuous" plume of gas and steam is pouring from Kilauea's summit crater amid ongoing explosive eruptions that are prompting ashfall warnings for downwind communities, officials said.

Early Saturday morning there were three explosions from Overlook Crater, creating ash clouds that shot up to 11,000 feet above sea level. This was two days after USGS officials announced that the rate of explosions at the crater increased to twice a day.

The explosive eruptions have been happening for more than a week, and the biggest happened last week Thursday, when a powerful but short-lived explosive sent an ash plume more than 5 miles into the air.

After that explosion, radar imagery found the eruptive vent at Halemaumau Crater had significantly enlarged.

Officials said the vent's area was about 12 acres on May 5. After the explosion last Thursday, the area of the vent was 34 acres.

Geologists warn the eruptive explosions at the crater could last for weeks.

They violent eruptions are "consistent" with steam-induced explosions — lava interacting with the water table. 

Before the eruptions began, scientists had warned for weeks that explosions at the summit could send heavy ashfall across communities near the summit and toss boulders "the size of cows" as far as a half a mile.

Given the threat, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed, and civil defense officials are urging those who live near the crater to remain vigilant.

The news comes as civil defense authorities continue to respond to Kilauea's ongoing eruptions in lower Puna, where thousands of people remain under mandatory evacuation orders.

The last time steam-induced eruptions happened at Halemaumau Crater was nearly a century ago, when flying debris killed one and left a layer of ash over homes and cars.

In 1924, explosive events at the summit lasted for two and a half weeks and ash reached as high as 20,000 feet above sea level.

Scientists say they're using the 1924 event as something of a baseline, using it to determine how long this volcanic event might last and how strong eruptions could be.

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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