The gas could cause choking and make people unable to breathe, the county said as it warned people in the area to leave. "That [being] said, there will be a time in the future when people can visit the lava, again, but now is definitely not that time". Residents in the area and surrounding farm lots near Lanipuna Gardens are advised the air quality is condition red.
Authorities recommend leaving the area and seeking medical attention if severely affected.
Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.
A major eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is imminent according to the United States Geological Survey who've issued a red warning. Northeast winds will carry ash downstream across the Big Island Kau District affecting the Punaluu, Wood Valley, Naalehu communities this morning and into early afternoon.
Almost 2,000 residents have evacuated the lower Puna district of the Big Island already, and the combination of noxious gas and lava on the ground has continued to create concerns about the safety of locals and tourists visiting the region.
"We're observing more or less continuous emission of ash now with intermittent, more energetic ash bursts or plumes", said Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy Scientist-In-Charge Steve Brantley on a conference call with reporters.
The eruption has hit the island's tourism industry.
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The volcano is located in the far east of Hawaii's 4,028-square-mile (10,430-square-km) Big Island, which is home to about 200,000 people. The industry grew the fastest on the Big Island past year compared to other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about $2.5 billion in visitor spending.
Janet Babb, a geologist from the Hawaii volcano observatory, said phreatic eruptions are "notoriously hard to forecast, and can occur with little or no warning". "Motorists advised to drive with caution", said the County of Hawaii Civil Defense text message. Lava from another fissure that opened over the weekend is making a path for the ocean, about two miles away. No homes or roads were threatened by the flow.
Two more fissures opened in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 19.
Nearby resident Richard Schott, 34, watched from a police checkpoint as the eruption churned just over a ridgeline and behind some trees.
She said her team isn't quite sure what caused Tuesday's slightly more intense ash emissions. "It's like a nuclear reaction or something".
Allstate insurance agent Marc Dixon told Hawaii News Now that insurance policies may cover fire due to lava, but most would not cover natural disaster damage from a volcano. The US Geological Survey recorded this statement.