It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and has been erupting continuously, though not explosively, for more than 30 years.
Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash kilometres into the sky. But as the lava lake levels fall below the groundwater table, water can start interacting with the magma, heating up and creating steam, USGS scientist Donald Swanson said last week.
Some Big Island residents had feared "the big one" after Kilauea shot anvil-sized "ballistic blocks" into the visitors' vehicle park on Wednesday and was rocked by earthquakes that damaged buildings and cracked roads in the park that was closed last week.
It maintained an aviation ban with a code red.
Schools were closed in the area due to "elevated sulfurdioxide (SO2) levels", according to a phone alert from emergency authorities. Unfortunately, if past events can help us predict what will happen, it is unlikely things will slow down for some time, as in 1955, similar activity commenced for 88 days.
Toby Hazel, who lives in Pahoa, near the mountain, said she heard "a lot of booming sounds" Thursday.
A Hawaii state senator who is also a physician on the Big Island says people should stay indoors until volcanic ash has settled.
The activity at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is getting more interesting and more ominous.
The global airports in Hilo and Kona are open, officials said.
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A National Weather Service ash advisory was in effect until noon.
Dramatic images showed large plumes looming over the Volcano Golf Course.
Scientists Michelle Coombs said at a morning news conference at Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters in Hilo that the event, which sent a cloud of ash and smoke up to 30,000 feet high, was "consistent with what we were thinking might happen".
Bill Dorman of Hawaii Public Radio reports that some residents awoke to a blanket of ash that when combined with rain, "can produce a sort of gritty clay - complicating everything from driving to local water catchment systems".
"Tall but small", she said of Thursday's plume.
Some people in the community closest to the volcano slept through the explosion. "They'd even take their little postcards, burn one corner in the lava flow, mail them off, stuff like that", he said.
Those areas were evacuated as lava destroyed at least 26 homes and 10 other structures. "Now they're acting like it's all super-dangerous and everything, but it just kind of oozes out".
Officials have said they didn't expect the explosion to be deadly as long as people remained out of park.
The last time steam-induced eruptions happened at Halemaumau Crater was almost a century ago, when flying debris killed one and left a layer of ash over homes and cars.