Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has erupted from its summit, shooting a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky.

Mike Poland, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmed the explosion on Thursday. It comes after more than a dozen fissures recently opened miles to the east of the crater and spewed lava into neighborhoods.

Those areas were evacuated as lava destroyed at least 26 homes and 10 other structures.

The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11.

Officials have said they didn't expect the explosion to be deadly as long as people remained out of park.

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

Scientists say earthquakes may shake loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state is forming a joint task force that could handle mass evacuations of the Big Island's Puna district if lava from Kilauea volcano covers major roads and isolates the area. 

Hawaii Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the task force commander, said he's anticipating potentially having to evacuate about 1,000 people, based on what he's been told by Hawaii County. But he said some people may choose to stay behind because they are self-sufficient.

Hara said there are currently about 1,200 soldiers and nine UH-60 helicopters currently training on the Big Island. He may also request forces from the U.S. Pacific Command if needed.

On Tuesday, the volcano discharged ash because of rocks falling into the summit, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland said.

"There is very little wind at the summit," he said. "The plume, it's not near as ashy as it was yesterday, and it's rising more or less vertically over the summit region."

Because of the ash, USGS scientists operated from a backup command center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Poland did not have an immediate height on the plume Wednesday since scientists were not staffing the observatory at the summit. They will have to rely on remote observations, he said.

"Things seem to be progressing largely as they have been, except for a shift in wind and less ash," Poland said.

Scientists remained on alert for more violent activity. Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky. But it's not certain when or if that might happen.

For those on the ground near the lava vents, health warnings were issued because of dangerous volcanic gases.

An air-quality alert was in effect for an area near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision. That area was evacuated shortly after the eruption began May 3. Most fissures are in that subdivision or the adjoining Leilani Estates neighborhood.

Several fissures remained active Wednesday, producing lava spatter. Lava from one fissure that had been clearing a path toward the ocean, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away, had not advanced in the last 24 hours.

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