It's been 3 weeks since the eruptions started. Here's what's happened so far

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PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three weeks after eruptions started on the Big Island, they're more vigorous than ever.

Active fissures on Kilauea's lower east rift zone are producing fountains of lava as high as 20-story buildings and creating fiery red rivers of lava that are now cascading into the sea.

Here's a look at what's happened so far:

  • Dozens of homes have been destroyed

It's not just lava that's destroyed homes, but huge cracks in the earth caused by magma flowing underground and deforming the land.

Authorities estimate that at least 50 structures have been claimed by the lava.

Of those, at least 28 are homes.

But officials warn that figure could steadily increase, with more homes being threatened and as assessments continue.

  • Lava has covered more than 1,700 acres

The scope of the disaster on the Big Island is hard to wrap your head around.

But here's one comparison for perspective's sake.

A football field is about 1.3 acres. And so the lava that's flowed from eruptions that started May 3 has covered the equivalent of 1,300 football fields.

Another way to imagine the devastation: Lava has covered as much land as two Central Parks.

Despite the significant size of the disaster, officials are also quick to point out that much of the Big Island is unaffected by the eruptions.

That's largely because the Big Island is, well, very big. Kailua-Kona, a popular destination, is about 100 miles from where lava is spewing from the ground.

  • The eerie glow of the eruptions can be seen for miles

A timelapse video shot from the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in the state, shows the spectacular light show the eruptions are creating.

Closer to the eruptions, the entire sky at night is red — and residents have compared the sounds of the eruptions to a "war zone."

Another incredible phenomenon: Blue flames are radiating from cracks in roadways.

  • Kilauea's summit crater is also erupting

It's easy to forget at times, but there are also eruptions ongoing at the summit of Kilauea.

The steam-induced explosions are producing columns of ash, and ashfall is being reported in in downwind communities.

The eruptions at Halemaumau Crater prompted the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Big Island's no. 1 tourist destination.

Officials say it's not clear when they'll be able to reopen the park.

  • Air quality remains a big concern

Volcanic emissions from ongoing eruptions are making it hard to breath in parts of the Big Island, especially for those with respiratory problems.

Sulfur dioxide levels near active fissures remain high in some places — so high that they've prompted ongoing evacuations.

Meanwhile, ashfall is a growing problem for some communities near the summit of Kilauea.

And the newest hazard is called "laze" — plumes of toxic gases and shards of glass created when lava hits chilly seawater.

Authorities have warned residents who live in areas near where flows are cascading into the ocean to be prepared to flee quickly if winds push the lava haze onshore.

  • The eruptions have hit tourism hard

The Big Island has seen a significant spike in visitor cancellations, a fact that tourism officials partly blame on misinformation in the national media.

Their message to visitors: Hawaii Island is open for business.

Officials did get some good news this week when Norwegian Cruise Line announced it would resume trips to Kona, where the biggest impact of the eruptions has been heavier than normal volcanic smog.

  • There's no telling when this will end

Thousands of people in lower Puna have been evacuated since the eruptions started, staying in emergency shelters or with family and friends.

They say the hardest part of the disaster has been the unknown: Will my home get destroyed? When will we be able to return?

Officials have started preliminary discussions about long-term housing for evacuees.

But in the meantime, evacuees are living out of tents or sleeping on cots.

"It's just overwhelming, completely overwhelming," said evacuee Stacey Welch.

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