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On Hawaii's Big Island, a 'Pretty Unreal' Sight

Eruption of Kilauea volcano is in 'full swing,' per USGS
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2021 7:58 AM CDT
Hawaii Volcano Eruption in 'Full Swing'
This webcam image shows a view of an eruption that has begun in the Halemaumau crater at the summit of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on Wednesday.   (USGS via AP)

(Newser) – As an ongoing volcano eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma continues to wreak havoc, the US Geological Survey says another eruption halfway around the world is in "full swing," reports Reuters. Although local media noted that, as of Wednesday night, there was no immediate danger to residents from the activity at Hawaii's Kilauea, the agency's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory upped its alert level for the volcano from "watch" to "warning," and its aviation color code—which monitors such hazards as volcanic ash in the air—from orange to red.

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What these status changes mean: a hazardous eruption is "imminent, underway, or suspected," with "significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere likely," per the USGS website. "What was once a cooling lava lake is now a new fissure eruption!" the agency tweeted late Wednesday, showing in a picture the glow emanating from the volcano's Halemaumau crater at the summit.

Hawaii News Now reports that no buildings or neighboring communities on the Big Island appear to be in danger at the moment, as the eruption is contained within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But officials warn that lava fountains have been spewing as high as 100 feet, while rocks and small fiberglass strands known as Pele's hair, which can become lodged in skin and eyes, are being blasted from the crater. "Vog," air pollution containing volcanic gases and particles, could also become a concern.

Still, the eruption isn't keeping gawkers away from Mother Nature's show. A park spokeswoman says a surge of spectators showed up at the park on Wednesday night, with even bigger crowds expected Thursday. "We're excited, but we're also cautious," she notes. One visitor's assessment of what they witnessed: "It's pretty unreal." KIRO 7 has some photos shared on social media. Kilauea's last eruption ended in May, after a five-month run. (Read more Kilauea stories.)

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