Civil Defence is warning Hawke's Bay people that a fine ash fallout from the eruption of Mt Tongariro could pose a health hazard despite current clear skies.
A brief eruption late last night on Mt Tongariro has resulted in a sizable fine ash cloud dispersing across Hawke's Bay, and particularly in the north-west of the region. <inline type="photogallery" id="13835" align="outside" embed="yes" />
A layer of ash approximately 1mm in depth has come to ground inland from Napier and north-east into the Wairoa area. There is a noticeable sulphuric smell in the air around Napier-Hastings, advised by Taradale and Havelock North people.
All flights in and out of Hawke's Bay airport have been cancelled for the day.
Civil Defence said air quality reporting also shows increased levels of PM10 particulate matter readings at all three air monitoring stations in Awatoto, Marewa Park (Napier) and St Johns (Hastings).
Hawke's Bay CDEM Group Controller Ian Macdonald asks schools, childcare centres and businesses to use their common sense, given the current clear skies. Unless ash is falling, it is safe to be outside, he said.
"People with respiratory issues should be aware of the situation and may choose to stay inside," said Mr Macdonald. "And where ash is visibly falling, people should remain indoors."
HBCDEM Group has been in contact with Unison, other lifelines organisations and HB DHB, coordinating a potential response, particularly if the situation with Mt Tongariro deteriorates. It is not known if the single brief eruption will be the only event, and it is possible that other eruptions may follow.
Power supply should not be affected, unless a significant ash fall occurs. However, HBCDEM Group asks people to be prepared, particularly in the event of power outages.
Flights are currently suspended at Hawke's Bay airport, and people should check with their airline to confirm travel plans.
State Highway 5, the Napier-Taupo road, is open, but people should check the NZTA or AA RoadWatch sites prior to any travel. Only those that need to travel using SH 5 should do so.
Ash will scratch car windscreens if wipers are used and people are advised to wash off using clean water.