PAHOA, Hawaii — Thousands living near Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano are nervously watching the spread of lava and ashfall. More evacuations may soon be ordered. But the main routes may soon be blocked.
Fiery red lava is not the only color lighting up the Big Island sky. Blue flames can be seen darting into the air — a sign that dangerous gases are being released.
Some of the vents formed by the Kilauea volcano are now releasing extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide, which is very toxic and potentially life threatening.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued a "red warning" for pilots to stay away from flying in the region — something that has been urged since the beginning of volcanic activity.
USGS reports that an "ash eruption … has increased in intensity" and the ash cloud is "as high as 10,000-12,000 feet above sea level."
Summary of #HVO #Kilauea VAN/VONA: Ash eruption at summit has increased in intensity. NWS radar & pilot reports show top of the ash cloud is as high as 10,000-12,000 feet above sea level. Ashfall and vog has been reported in Pahala (18 mi downwind). #KilaueaErupts pic.twitter.com/ChzRdu0Ch7
— USGS Volcanoes?? (@USGSVolcanoes) May 15, 2018
CBS affiliate KGMB-TV reports that winds are carrying the ash southwest of the Halemaumau Crater to a number of towns, including Pahala, Wood Valley, Punaluu and Hawaiian Oceanview Estates. The ash could also affect crops and animals.
National Weather Service urges residents to remain indoors — especially those with respiratory illnesses to avoid inhaling particles. Anyone going outside should cover their mouth and nose with a cloth or mask.
At least 20 lava fissures have opened up since the eruptions began May 3, destroying more than two dozen homes or structures and creating a path about 2 miles long that’s heading toward the ocean.
That’s why all eyes are on the highway — Highway 132 and 137 are in jeopardy of closing. If those highways were to close, the beach road would be one of the only evacuation routes. It’s a one lane road. It’s a beautiful drive, but it’s not the ideal evacuation route.
"Where I was standing right here, I was looking at their living room window," said Leilani Estates resident Scott Wiggers.
Wiggers lives in the hardest-hit neighborhood, Leilani Estates. It is under evacuation orders, but he wont leave. Instead, he’s documenting what’s happening for his neighbors.
"It’s hard to imagine, but when I was here, all of that lava was not there," Wiggins said. "All of the lava came through in a matter of a couple hours. One of the most incredible things, I’ve ever seen. It’s just so devastating."