Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Authorities asked residents on Hawaii's Big Island to stay indoors after the Kilauea volcano erupted late on Sunday.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported an eruption at Kilauea's Halemaumau Crater Sunday night and Hawaii County Civil Defense authorities issued an emergency message warning residents to stay inside to avoid ash exposure.
Officials said prevailing trade winds would push any embedded ash toward the Kau District in Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View.
About three hours after the initial eruption, the National Weather Service reported the eruption was easing and no ashfall was reported downwind.
The eruption might have been composed primarily of steam, they said.
The event was accompanied by a magnitude-4.4 earthquake located beneath Kīlauea's south flank, the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
The quake was centered about 9 miles south of Fern Forest, near the Holei Pali area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, at a depth of 4 miles. Weak to light shaking was reported across the Big Island.
Kīlauea's south flank has been the site of dozens of earthquakes with magnitudes of 4.0 or greater over the past 20 years.
During Sunday's eruption, lava cascaded into a lake at Kilauea's summit, which was quickly boiled off as a new lava lake was formed, the USGS said.
The tallest lava fountain observed during the eruption was about 160 feet. All the lava was contained within the Halemaumau Crater.