May 17, Early Morning: Steam Explosion!

May 17, 4:17 AM, the first honest-to-gosh steam explosion like they’ve been predicting (instead of just a rock and lava explosion) sent an ash cloud up 30,000 feet. Gemini Observatory caught it on timelapse:

According to volcanologist Erik Klemetti, the blast threw some 1000-pound blocks, the only place I’ve seen this. See blog post (more pics).

By morning, things had settled down:

Ash coats sign of Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory Overlook, rim of Kilauea Crater, overlooking steaming Halema’uma’u Crater below [USGS]
The golfers got dusted, too; that Volcano golf resort is only 3-4 miles from the crater. Rain made the ash sticky:

Ashfall, morning of May 17, Volcano Golf and Country Club Subdivision [Source]
Video briefing:

Here’s a somewhat technical page from the NOAA “Volcanic Cloud Monitoring” web portal pulling together satellite data on this ash plume. The previous few entries cover the May 15 “golf” ash plume eruption.

The FAA moved the “no fly zone” around Kilauea’s summit to 30,000 feet, 5 mile radius. And according to USGS geologist Steve Brantley, geologists are no longer checking the summit for large boulders: they’d been shifting their base of operations to Hilo University for safety, because they don’t want to get hit by boulders either.

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.

[Source: Good article on May 17].