Amount of ash in plume above Kilauea Volcano decreases

Before-and-After Satellite Images Show Damage Caused By Lava From Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano

Before-and-After Satellite Images Show Damage Caused By Lava From Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano

As Scott Neuman of NPR explains, volcanic ash reduces visibility and causes damage to jet engines, creating a highly unsafe environment for airplanes. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater "has raised the potential for explosive eruptions" at the volcano. On Tuesday, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued a rare "red alert" warning, which means a major eruption is imminent and that the ash clouds emitted from the volcano can affect air traffic.

Lava has burst from 21 giant ground cracks or fissures and torn through housing developments and farmland, threatening two highways that are exit routes for coastal areas. Because there's little wind, the plume for the most part is rising vertically over the summit.

Residents are being warned to prepare for an evacuation at any moment.

The explosive, steam-driven eruptions could drive a 6100-metre (20,000-foot) ash plume out of the crater, hurl boulders the size of small cars up to 800 metres and scatter smaller rocks over 19km, the USGS has warned.

Poland didn't have an immediate height on the plume Wednesday morning since USGS scientists were not staffing the observatory at the summit. The eruption has destroyed 25 homes and covered 115 acres in lava.

Before-and-After Satellite Images Show Damage Caused By Lava From Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano
Ash cloud from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano sparks red alert for aircraft

The Hawaii Fire Department said there is a high alert level for air quality near Lanipuna Gardens estates because of fissures.

But the eruption Tuesday was not as serious as some have feared and so far has fallen short of a catastrophic massive steam emission.

Almost 20 fissures have opened up in those two subdivisions, destroying more than two dozen homes since the eruption began May 3.

Hawaii County officials said several fissures remained active Wednesday, producing lava spatter.

Lava flows down a Hawaiian street.

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