PAHALA, Hawaii – Hawaii residents are facing the highest volcanic activity alert after officials warned Tuesday that the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano is growing more explosive — as a massive ash cloud grows in the sky.
The U.S. Geological Survery upgraded its previous volcano warning from “orange” to “red,” signifying that an “eruption is forecasted to be imminent with significant emission of ash into the atmosphere likely,” or that an eruption is already underway.
“At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,” local officials told Fox News amid the alert, which was issued just before 1:30 p.m. local time.
Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago. On Monday, another fissure spewing lava and unhealthy gas opened up, and a crack in the Earth that emerged a day earlier was sending molten rock on a slow run for the ocean, officials said.
The eruption has destroyed about two dozen homes in the Leilani Estates subdivision on the Big Island.
Volcanic air pollution and ashfall have been reported in Pahala, and National Weather Service radar and pilots have reported the top of the volcano’s ash cloud is 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level.
Nearly 2,000 people have been told to evacuate since May 3.
Fox News’ James Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.