Mexico's famous Popocatepetl volcano experienced one of its largest explosions in years, causing its eruption to cover about 30 communities with ash, according to reports.

According to Wired's Eruptions blog, the ash ranges from a light dusting to up to seven centimeters thick.

Popocatepetl means smoking mountain in Aztec. At 17,802 feet (5,426 meters) it is the second highest volcano in North America.

MSNBC reported that the eruption coupled with a plume of steam and ash and increased seismic activity, prompted authorities to raise the volcano's alert status. Mexican authorities have since advised people to stay at least seven miles away from the summit.

Eruptions Blog author Erik Klemetti, a professor of geosciences at Denison University in Ohio, said that a raised alert level means that local authorities are preparing for potential evacuations should the volcano have a major eruption.

Fox News reported that the National Disaster Prevention Center said that a lava dome is growing in the volcano's crater and that Popocatepetl could experience significant explosions of growing intensity that hurl incandescent rocks significant distances. Large ash showers and possible flows of mud and molten rocks down the volcano's flank could also occur.