Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Summit Erupts, Shooting Cloud of Volcanic Ash and Smoke Into the Sky
Two weeks after the Kilauea volcano’s eruption sent lava shooting up from the ground, a dusty plume of ash erupted from the volcano’s summit on Thursday.
The explosion occurred around 4:15 a.m. HST and “produced a volcanic cloud that reaches as high as 30,000” feet, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement released on Thursday, adding that the ash has “drifted northeast” since the eruption initially occurred.
Officials also issued a warning stating that the volcano could “become more explosive” at any time, which could increase “the intensity of ash production” and produce “ballistic projections near the vent.”
After confirming the eruption, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency advised residents located in Kau, Puna, and Hilo what they should do if they encounter the airborne ash plume.
“If this event occurs while you are at home, stay indoors with the windows closed. Turn on your radio and listen for updates from authorities,” officials wrote, adding that “if you are in your car, keep the windows closed.”
“Ash fallout may cause poor driving conditions, due to limited visibility and slippery driving conditions. Drive with extreme caution, or pull over and park,” the agency added.
Continuing, officials wrote: “After the hazard has passed, do check your home, and especially your catchment system for any impact that may affect your water quality.”
The agency went on to announce that the National Weather Service “has issued an ashfall advisory until 12 p.m,” and that “due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels,” several local schools would be closed.
Although authorities aren’t certain how far the ash will travel, the U.S. Geological Survey released a few computer simulations showing the possible path the ash plume could take.
Over 1,500 Hawaii residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes since the volcano first erupted on May 3.
The lava bursts came after hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area for days, with quakes measuring magnitudes of 5.0 or higher, according to the Associated Press. The quakes were triggered after the Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse.
Mayor Harry Kim declared a state of emergency in Hawaii County, according to a statement from Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who announced in a tweet that he had activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with security and evacuations.
Several shelters have been opened in surrounding towns as officials have detected “extremely high levels of dangerous Sulfur Dioxide gas in evac area,” according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
RELATED VIDEO: WATCH: Hundreds Forced to Evacuate as Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Spews Lava Into Nearby Town
As many photos from the lava sites have become popularized on social media, Hawaii police are warning residents and tourists to not take selfies in dangerous areas.
“The fissures are deadly, very deadly. We’re currently in a condition red because of the increased ash in the area,” Alan Richmond, spokesman for the Hawaii Police Department, previously told PEOPLE.
“We’ve had no injuries which is the good news. The danger is that there will be rocks and debris falling further down into the crater and when the lava hits the water table, there’s an explosion,” Richmond added. “Everybody is on standby. It’s a dicey situation and no one knows how long it will last and how it will end, just dealing with Mother Nature.”
Continuing, he said, “People that live here know that you do not want to mess with the volcano and the lava eruption. It’s just common sense.”