Kilauea New Threat: Hawaii Volcano May Start Spewing Massive Boulders

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So far the eruption of Kilauea has destroyed dozens of structures, at least 27 of those homes, and no way to tell how long the volcano will remain active. Distant communities such as Hilo, about 30 miles away, could get a dusting of ash.

It also shows deep volcanic fissures, vents through which lava erupts, along the ground. He and other native Hawaiians say the plant desecrates traditional beliefs and angers Pele, the goddess of fire, who lives at the summit crater. Ige said crews at the plant near the lava outbreak accelerated the removal of stored flammable fuel with safety in mind.

USGS geologists are closely monitoring the volcano. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory website has a wonderful summary of the 1924 explosions, including magnificent historic photos. When the molten rock reaches groundwater levels, pressurized steam can cause an explosion, shooting rocks and ash miles away from the crater. Then last week, it was Kilauea volcano sending 2,200 degree (1,200 degree Celsius) lava bursting through cracks into people's backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood.

Terra also got a good look at that sulfur dioxide, imaging big clouds of it on Sunday using a different instrument called the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER). "We don't know what's going on underground".

But most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be closed Friday until further notice, because officials are anxious one of those steam-driven explosions could happen, accompanied by an ash fall.

Some critics have suggested that the state encouraged more people to build in vulnerable areas when it created HPIA. Joe Kent, vice president of research at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, wrote this week that "if the state had stayed out of the situation, probably fewer families would have built in the area, and today there might be less housing destruction".

"This is a huge change".

While Mount Kilauea's eruption is now causing gentle lava flows, when the magma mixes with water, it can generate more explosive eruptions.

"This volcano is very unique and we're lucky that it's not as unsafe as other volcanoes and we're able to go and see it without having it pose a threat to our safety", said Holowath.

During steam-driven explosions, ballistic blocks up to two yards across could be thrown in all directions to a distance of about a half mile.

"We're learning about how the lava is impacting upon lifelines like water supply and electricity".

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days. And the dropped rocks maintain that steam in till it blows. If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about three miles around the summit, land all inside the national park, Mandeville said.

The small, aptly named town of Volcano, Hawaii, population 2,500, is about 3 miles (4.83 kilometers) from the summit.

"We're hoping that the park where we do most of the field work will still be accessible for our work, although we're not really working in areas that are risky".