The Explosion Geologists Feared From Hawaii's Volcano Has Just Happened

WEATHER
               Some Hawaii residents leave as Kilauea spews ash        The Latest on the summit eruption of Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island

Residents of the Big Island were warned to take shelter from the ash as toxic gas levels spiked in a small southeast area where lava has burst from the ground during the two-week eruption.

Rain kept the ash from going very far, and the ashfall was light, but officials still warned people in the area on Hawaii's Big Island to stay indoors and to use the masks.

Meanwhile, stormy weather caused the ash to mix with rain, creating a dark paste that coated rooftops and vehicle windshields. About 20 fissures opened in communities along the volcano's eastern slopes, prompting evacuations of almost 2,000 residents and engulfing dozens of homes in lava.

PAHOA, HI - MAY 16: Eruptive activity from the Kilauea volcano continues in the vicinity of fissure 17 with cooling lava (center and center left) on Hawaii's Big Island on May 16, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.

Scientists believe the volcanic activity may be a precursor to a major eruption similar to the one that shook the island in the mid 1920s. Michael O'Meally, 23, who lives in Aiea and works in sales in Waikiki, said a friend who works at a Ko Olina resort told him she has fielded several calls from concerned guests.

The worldwide airports in Hilo and Kona are open, officials said.

Geologists said the 4:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT) explosion was likely the first in a series of steam-driven blasts last seen in 1924, rather than "the big one" that nervous residents had feared as Kilauea was rocked by earthquakes in recent days.

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KÄ«lauea has erupted in this manner before.

But a massive explosion in 1790 killed hundreds of people hit by molten volcanic debris and steam.

By a co-accident, on the Thursday's explosive event comes one day before the 94th anniversary of that death and on the 38th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

Scientists can not say why the eruption is happening now, given that Kilauea has been active for 35 years. But these golfers in Hawaii have rounds to go before they sleep.

Geologists say the latest eruptions are being caused by lava levels substantially draining at the summit.

Thursday's event was, if not the huge one, then certainly a big one, researchers told further.

Mount Pinatubo last erupted in 1991, killing more than 350 people in what became the second-largest eruption of the 20th century.

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