U.S. Air National Guard John Linzmeier looks at cracks as toxic gases near Pahoa rise on Friday, May 1
VOLCANO, Hawaii – Experts were uncertain on Friday when the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii will calm down.
The Big Island volcano exploded on its summit on Thursday sending thousands of rocks and ashes
Scientists said the eruption was the strongest in the last few days, though it probably only lasted a few minutes.
It came two weeks after the volcano sent lava flows into 40-mile (40 km) quarters.
A new lava flow – the 22nd such rift – was reported Friday by County Civil Defense officials.
Several open fissure vents still produce lava flows and evacuated areas. Also gas flows from the chimneys, houses and trees in smoke.
The fresher, hotter magma allows faster lava flows that potentially cover more area, said Janet Babb, geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
Much of the lava that has been created so far could have been underground for decades, perhaps since an outbreak in 1955.
Meanwhile, more explosive eruptions are expected from the summit.
"We can not know if that really is the beginning or end of this outbreak," said Tom Shea, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii. "We are all right now in this world of uncertainty."
It's almost impossible to tell when a volcano will erupt, "because the processes that fall below the surface are going down and we can not see them." said volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University in West Virginia
US government scientists, however, are trying to pin down these signals, "so we have a slightly better warning," said Wendy Stovall, a volcanologist with the observatory.
So far, according to Krippner, the authorities were able to predict the volcanic activity early enough to bring people to safety.
"If no one warned people and tourists were everywhere, that would have been devastating with the big rocks that blew out – these are deadly," she said.
The Federal Aviation The administration still has flight restrictions, but for a smaller area – up to 5,000 feet above sea level and a 5-kilometer radius around the crater.
The greatest lingering threat stems from the lava flows, the hot, toxic gases gushing out of open cracks near homes and critical infrastructure, said Charles Mandeville of the US Geological Survey Volcano Driving Program.
Authorities have measured gases such as sulfur dioxide, ri sing in small trains from open vents.
For now, the ashes seem more of a nuisance than a serious threat. Some residents of Big Island cover their faces to prevent small particles from flying through the air, and some have found thin ash layers as the winds blew away the feathers of populated areas.
Lindsey Magnani said on Thursday that she and her family selected some of the 2,000 masks that were distributed by district officials. She also closed all windows at home to block the air, which smelled strongly of sulfur.
Dr. Josh Green, a state senator who represents part of the Big Island, said that the immediate health risk of ash particles is in the air. Anyone with difficulty breathing, such as asthma or emphysema, should limit exposure to ashes, he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm not sure it would do me good to stay," said James Clapper, 70, an evacuee resident now sleeping in his truck. "The property has huge, huge cracks. Is one of these cracks under the house? I do not know."
Associated Press journalists Jae Hong in Pahoa, Jennifer Kelleher and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, Becky Drill in Juneau, Alaska, Seth Borenstein of Washington, DC, and Alina Hartounian of Phoenix contributed to the report.
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