The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Volcanoes Hazard Program issued a “Red Warning” Tuesday night for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

The agency’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued the highest level alert in the afternoon after increased activity within Halemaumau crater.
 “Ash has been rising nearly continuously from the vent and drifting downwind to the southwest. Ashfall and vog (volcanic air pollution) has been reported in Pahala, about 18 miles downwind,” HVO said.

The burst in volcanic ash from Halemaumau Crater began at about 7 a.m. The National Weather Service said northeast winds were expected to carry the ash downstream across the Big Island Kau district, affecting the communities of Punaluu, Wood Valley and Naalehu into the early afternoon.

Radar indicated the ash cloud reached up to 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level.

Of particular concern is the high level of sulfur dioxide gas that is being emitted during this eruption cycle, which has triggered an emergency warning related to air quality.

The vents that have formed on Hawaii’s Big Island from one of the world’s most active volcanoes are releasing dangerous levels of gases that pose a danger to anyone nearby, officials warned as a new fissure in the area opened up Tuesday.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense said the volcanic fissures in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood are issuing high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, which are causing the air quality to be to be placed under “red” conditions.

“Condition RED means immediate danger to health so take action to limit further exposure. Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe,” the agency said. “This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.”

The volcano may also cause an economic disaster, as tourism has evaporated as a result of the eruption.

Some cruise ships have even decided not to go into port on the island, with a handful even refusing to land on Kona, which is about 100 miles away from the volcano.

“The volcano isn’t just our No. 1 attraction, it’s the state’s No. 1 attraction,” Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, told CNN. He noted that when volcano tourism stops, it has a direct impact on spending across the island.

President Donald Trump has agreed to the request of Hawaii’s governor and has declared the event a major disaster. It appears to be a very timely move.