The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency announced that an explosive eruption occurred at the Kilauea volcano at approximately 05:00 (local time) on Thursday, May 17. A plume of ash has been sent approximately 9144 m (30,000 ft) into the sky. The ash is expected to cover the area surrounding the volcano and be carried by winds to the southeast. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place warning for individuals in the impacted area and warned that driving conditions may be dangerous due to low visibility.
A “red” level aviation alert remains in effect as of Thursday, May 17, due to the ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. A red alert indicates that a major volcanic eruption may be imminent. The decision, made by the US Geological Survey (USGS) on May 15, came amid intensifying ash eruptions and the production of rock projectiles from volcanic explosions. Flight disruptions due to the presence of ash in the atmosphere are possible in the coming hours and days, notably at Kona International Airport (KOA).
Nearby residents on Hawai'i Island (“Big Island”) are being told to be prepared to evacuate on short notice; 1700 people have already been evacuated in recent days. A number of earthquakes have also shaken the area, the strongest of which have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale.
Kilauea began erupting on May 3. Lava flows have since destroyed dozens of homes and forced the evacuations of thousands of people from the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens communities. Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has been closed since May 11 as a precaution. US President Donald Trump has declared a state of major disaster in Hawaii, making federal funding available for recovery operations. No casualties have been attributed to the heightened volcanic activity as of early May 17.
Individuals in Hawaii are advised to avoid the affected area, monitor the situation, confirm flight reservations, follow any instructions issued by the local authorities (e.g. evacuation orders), and wear respiratory masks and covering clothing to protect skin from ashfall in affected areas.
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