Erupting Hawaii volcano’s alert level is lowered to ‘watch’

U.S. Geological Survey officials have lowered the alert level for a Hawaii volcano

The eruption began last week in Kilauea volcano’s Halemaumau crater at the volcano’s summit.

Over the past several days, a thick layer of molten lava accumulated as a lava lake at the base of the crater, partially drowning the vents, which resulted in subdued fountaining, the observatory said Monday.

Observatory officials on Monday afternoon lowered the alert level to “watch” and the aviation code to orange, “reflecting the less-hazardous nature of the ongoing eruption.”

The eruption remains confined to the crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It’s not in an area of the Big Island where there are any homes.

Kilauea had a major eruption in 2018 that destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced thousands of residents. Before that eruption, the volcano had been slowly erupting for decades, but mostly not in densely populated residential areas.

Ron Hanatani, who has a pottery studio in Volcano Village near the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said residents and tourists have been flocking to the park for a glimpse. As a former geologist at the observatory, he’s seen more spectacular eruptions than this one over the years.

“Most of the people I know who live here are very excited, so they’ll go multiple times, even at night or early morning, take pictures and all that,” he said. “I’m in a minority.”

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