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What are phreatic eruptions? Are they occurring in Hawaii?

What are phreatic eruptions? Are they occurring in Hawaii?

What are phreatic eruptions? Are they occurring in Hawaii?

Geologists have warned that if Kilauea erupts, the volcano could hurl ash and boulders miles into the sky.

Electric crews are on stand by in case more falling ash on electric lines triggers power outages.

Volcanic air pollution and ashfall have been reported in Pahala, and National Weather Service radar and pilots have reported the top of the volcano's ash cloud is 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level.

Unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide gas and other emissions prompted state health officials to urge residents to stay indoors or leave the eastern end of Hawaii's Big Island, which has been ravaged by volcanic activity since May 3.

It presents a new hazard for the islanders, who have already had to deal with volcanic gas and lava that forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 residents and caused the destruction of 37 homes in the past 12 days.

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According to the agency, plumes of ash cloud as high as 12,000 feet are threatening visibility, with volatile wind conditions potentially bringing projectiles and volcanic fog in contact with aircraft. A red alert was issued by the U.S. Geological Survery of a possible eruption. The volcano has been spewing lava from fissures that opened up on its flanks for two weeks.

Michelle Coombs of the USGS described it as " very hazardous for aviation", and said her team isn't quite sure what caused Tuesday's slightly more intense ash emissions.

Smoke billowed from a lava fissure near a home in Puna's Leilani Estates subdivision Tuesday afternoon.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that several fissures are actively producing spatter, however, the flow from fissure 17 has not advanced since Tuesday, according to a Wednesday morning update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. Lava emerging from the vents has destroyed dozens of homes.

CNN's Stephanie Elam said her heart started pounding as she approached one fissure. Beneath the caldera, lava receded noticeably, and experts said if the levels fell below the groundwater, it could trigger a huge, powerful eruption of ash, steam and debris.

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