More Hawaii residents told to be prepared to evacuate

The Turrialba volcano spews smoke and ash in May 2016 in Cartago Costa Rica. Experts say it is the strongest eruption from the volcano in the past six years

Hawaii's Gov. David Ige signed a presidential disaster declaration request for the Big Island, saying he believes the scope of damage meets the threshold for more federal help.

More destructive lava flows could soon hit Hawaii's Big Island as the Kilauea volcano erupts, posing a greater threat than oozing magma that has so far destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands to evacuate, scientists said on Friday.

While locals contend with lava and gas on the ground, explosions at Kilauea's summit some 25 miles (40 km) to the west were dusting communities with ash that irritated eyes and breathing. "Lots and lots of tremors", said Cindy Conda, whose house lies just east of Leilani Estates where 27 homes have been torched by lava in the past eight days and whose residents have been moved out.

The Hawaii volcano could blow its top in the coming days and cause a widespread disaster on the island, according to the latest from U.S. officials.

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However, even if Kilauea does begin an explosive eruption, geologists say it will not be an event like Mount Saint Helens or other major eruptions. However, natural disaster activity and ground deformation continue and additional outbreaks in the general area are expected.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will close Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event. "If you're near the crater, within half a mile, you could be subject to ballistic blocks weighing as much as 10 or 12 tons", Donald Swanson of the Obervatory tells The Washington Post.

Warnings that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could shoot boulders and ash out of its summit crater are prompting people to rethink their plans to visit the Big Island. Smigelski-Theiss says she's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.

Officials are also warning residents of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions. She's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.

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Officials with the agency wouldn't estimate the likelihood of such an explosion, but called it a "distinct possibility".

In little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to nearly 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning, Mandeville said. When the molten rock reaches groundwater levels, pressurized steam can cause an explosion, shooting rocks and ash miles away from the crater.

"One of the things I love about Kilauea is that it's so well-monitored and so well-studied - the more we know, the more we realize we don't know", she said. If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about 3 miles around the summit, land all inside the national park, Mandeville said.

If you're within several miles, you could be within range of smaller rocks the size of marbles, he said, and 20 miles downwind "you would see fine ash floating from the sky like snow", he added.

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