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Watch Now: Dramatic Hawaii volcano eruption draws crowds
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Watch Now: Dramatic Hawaii volcano eruption draws crowds

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HONOLULU — Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on the Big Island erupted and shot a cloud of steam and ash into the atmosphere that lasted about an hour, an official with the National Weather Service said early Monday.

The eruption began late Sunday within Kilauea's summit crater, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The crater, named Halemaumau, is located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and was home to a longstanding lava lake that was present for years before a 2018 eruption caused it to drain.

Tom Birchard, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Hawaii, said lava interacted with a pool of water that had accumulated inside the crater, leading to a short-lived but fairly vigorous eruption. All the water evaporated out of the lake, and a steam cloud shot up about 30,000 feet into the atmosphere, Birchard said.

The water was the first ever recorded in the summit crater of Kilauea volcano.

Volcano

In this photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava flows within the Halema’uma’u crater of the Kilauea volcano on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has erupted, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

In 2019, after a week of questions about a mysterious green patch at the bottom of the volcano's crater, researchers confirmed the presence of water. The lake had continued to fill since then.

An advisory was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, warning of fallen ash from the volcano. Excessive exposure to ash is an eye and respiratory irritant, it said. The agency later said the eruption was easing and a "low-level steam cloud" was lingering in the area.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said in a telephone interview that the volcanic activity is a risk to people in the park and that caution is needed.

"It's pretty spectacular this morning," she said, "but there are high amounts of hazardous sulfur dioxide gas and particulates and those are billowing out of the crater right now and those present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women."

She also said drivers were lining up at the park entrance to get a glimpse of the lava.

"There is a lot of cars waiting on Crater Rim Drive to get out to Kilauea overlook. People should expect long waits for parking places," she said.

In 2018 nearly 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate from their homes after Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted, sending molten lava to chew its way through forest land and bubble up on paved streets. Here are photos looking back at that eruption:

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