Senate aims to improve volcano warning system

The Latest on the summit eruption of Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island

Posted: May 17, 2018 6:23 PM

HONOLULU (AP) - The Latest on the summit eruption of Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation aimed at improving the country's volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities.

The measure would strengthen existing volcano monitoring systems and unify them under one connected system.

It also would create a Volcano Watch Office, which would operate around the clock, to monitor all active volcanoes in the U.S. and U.S. territories.

The measure still must be approved by the U.S. House.

Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell says her state has five of the highest-threat volcanoes in the nation.

She says Thursday's eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is a reminder that volcanoes are a persistent and serious threat.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono also backed the measure.

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12:40 p.m.

Geologists aren't planning to check if an eruption at a Hawaii volcano ejected any large boulders.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory moved to a university campus after concerns that Kilauea could hurl big rocks.

Observatory scientist Steve Brantley says it's too dangerous to send geologists to measure any possible boulders after the summit of the volcano spewed ash about 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) into the air Thursday.

Scientists say more explosions are possible, but it's not known when they could occur. They say light, wet ash fell in parts of a town called Volcano, about 3 or 4 miles (5 or 6 kilometers) from the summit crater.

Officials say that if explosions become more energetic, there could be boulders that fall up to a mile away or pea-sized fragments up to 4 miles away.

____

11:55 a.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration is prohibiting aircraft from entering airspace up to 30,000 feet (9,100 meters) in the sky above the summit crater of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano after it erupted ash high into the air.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the flight restriction extends an earlier limit that was up to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The prohibition applies to a 5 mile (8 kilometer) radius around the summit crater.

Thursday's eruption sent ash about 30,000 feet above sea level. Operations at the Big Island's two biggest airports in Hilo and in Kailua-Kona are not affected.

Hawaiian Airlines says its flights to the two airports are operating as scheduled. The airline is encouraging guests to monitor their flight status for updates.

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11:20 a.m.

A Hawaii state senator who is also a physician on the Big Island says people should stay indoors until volcanic ash has settled.

Dr. Josh Green says those with respiratory problems should limit exposure to ash that spewed from Kilauea volcano Thursday.

He says extended exposure to sulfur dioxide can increase the risk of bronchitis and upper respiratory infections in the long run.

Short-term risks are higher for those with asthma and emphysema.

The National Weather Service extended an ash fall advisory until 6 p.m. It says less than a quarter inch of accumulation of ash was possible.

The service says for most people the ash would cause eye and respiratory irritants with low level impacts for most people.

Scientists say there could be more explosions.

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10:55 a.m.

An employee of a lodge near an erupting volcano on Hawaii's Big Island worries about the impact on tourism.

The Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, sending ash about 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) into the air.

Janet Coney has seen a downturn in business at Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant in the last two weeks since the volcano became more active with lava fissures, earthquakes and another ash plume Tuesday.

She is office manager of the lodge, which is about 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the volcano summit

Coney says there have been many room cancellations, though she says there has been some walk-in traffic from people excited to be there.

She worries the impression from media coverage is that the whole island is under threat, which isn't the case.

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9:55 a.m.

Officials on Hawaii's Big Island will be handing out free masks to protect people from breathing volcanic ash.

Less than a quarter-inch of ash is expected to fall in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and in nearby communities after the Kilauea volcano spewed a light ash cloud early Thursday.

The masks will be handed out from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Officials warn they won't protect against gases and vapors.

Fenix Grange of the state health department says generally healthy people shouldn't have to worry about the ash. But she says it's probably "not a good day to go out running."

Officials say the ash would fall mostly within the park and the town of Volcano, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the summit.

Small amounts could fall in communities to the northeast, maybe as far as Hilo on the other side of the island.

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8:30 a.m.

The summit explosion of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano created booming sounds in the nearby town of Pahoa and resident Toby Hazel says she's had enough and is preparing to leave town.

Hazel said Thursday that it was "time to go" after the volcano sent an ash plume high into the sky following two weeks of lava eruptions from fissures that emerged on the flanks of the volcano.

In Hilo 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the volcano, Pua'ena Ahn says he has experienced labored breathing, itchy, watery eyes and some skin irritation as ash plumes intensified in recent days.

Hawaii County officials say the volcano's summit exploded at 4:17 a.m.

Some schools are closed following the explosion but there have been no additional evacuations.

About 2,000 people living near the fissures spitting lava had already been evacuated.

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7:30 a.m.

Some residents of Hawaii's Big Island say they didn't hear or feel the pre-dawn summit eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano that sent a plume of ash 30,000 feet (9,140 meters) into the sky.

Epic Lava tour operator John Tarson is an early-riser who was awake and says he only knew about it because an alert came in on his phone.

Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast owner Robert Hughes says there were a few small earthquakes Wednesday but he heard nothing Thursday when the volcano erupted. He described Thursday so far as a "nice rainy day."

Hawaii County Civil Defense spokeswoman Kanani Aton said she spoke to several close family and friends who live in the nearby community of Volcano and that all slept through the eruption

Hawaii County officials say the volcano on the Big Island exploded at 4:17 a.m.

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6:17 a.m.

Residents who live in a nearby town are reporting light amounts of ash after a summit eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.

Hawaii County officials say the volcano on the Big Island exploded at 4:17 a.m.

U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland says the explosion likely only lasted a few minutes.

Poland says ash accumulations are minimal and that trace amounts were expected near the volcano and on a nearby town, named Volcano.

About two hours later, Poland said the webcam view showed a dusty plume rising from the summit. It looked like it was a steam and ash plume.

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6:10 a.m.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has erupted from its summit, shooting a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky.

Mike Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmed the explosion on Thursday. It comes after more than a dozen fissures recently opened miles to the east of the crater and spewed lava into neighborhoods.

Those areas were evacuated as lava destroyed at least 26 homes and 10 other structures.

The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11.

Officials have said they didn't expect the explosion to be deadly as long as people remained out of park.

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

___

This version corrects that the explosion happened at about 4:17 a.m., not 6 a.m.

(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

5/17/2018 6:17:58 PM (GMT -5:00)

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