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Thousands flock to Kilauea as lava returns to summit, creating fiery show

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 3:21 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 10:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of visitors are flocking to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to catch a glimpse of the dramatic fiery show created by a new eruption at the summit of Kilauea.

After a months-long pause, the eruption started about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday in a “very rapid onset,” sending up fiery fountains as high as 100 feet and flooding the floor of Halemaumau Crater with lava.

Officials said lava is confined within the crater ― and that the amount of lava output is significant ― about 26,000 gallons a second. By Thursday morning, the lava in Halemaumau had risen over 50 feet.

“We have fountaining. We have fissures. And we have lava lake activity,” said Natalia Deligne, of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. “All of that is confined to the crater.”

There are no threats from the eruption. to any buildings or nearby communities.

However, officials said that volcanic gas and heavy vog could become a concern as the eruption is sending up thick plumes into the air. Officials also warned of rocks and tephra getting blasted from the crater as well as Pele’s hair, which are tiny strands of fiberglass floating in the air.

Almost as soon as the eruption started, spectators flocked to the park to take in the show. Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane urged visitors to “recreate responsibly.”

“We still urge people who are planning to come, there could be long lines to get into the park and we’re expecting upwards of thousands of people a day to see the new eruption,” Ferracane said.

Ferracane added that spectators should not gather, if possible.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, so we are really urging our visitors to wear a mask if they can’t maintain that 6 feet of social distance and to give everybody their space,” she said.

Visitors to the park described a “beautiful” and “amazing” scene as lava lit up the night sky.

“It’s pretty unreal,” said one visitor at the park Wednesday night. “We just came visiting and surprisingly it was going off. So we just stopped by to check it out.”

The eruption came after a day of increased activity at the volcano.

Just before midnight Tuesday, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge Ken Hon said, earthquakes increased then migrated to the summit. They picked up again around noon Wednesday, prompting HVO to raise the alert level to orange.

And then at 3:20 p.m., the alert level was raised to red when an eruption was confirmed.

“We were working on an announcement we were going to red when the eruption started,” Hon said.

He said it’s not clear how long the eruption will last, but added that in the past 60 years or so eruptions within the caldera have typically lasted less than a year.

The last eruption at Kilauea ended in May after an explosive start five months earlier. During that eruption, about 11 billion gallons of lava erupted into the crater.

A 2018 eruption of Kilauea was by far the most destructive in modern history, spewing lava into lower Puna and destroying entire communities.

Officials stress the current eruption is at the summit and poses no immediate danger to area residents.

This story will be updated.

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