August 12, 2008

Volcanic Ash Disrupts Air Travel in Alaska

Thousands of air travelers have been stranded in Alaska by an ash plume from three volcanoes in the Aleutians, an airline official says.

Kasatochi began showing signs of life last week, while Okmok and Mount Cleveland have also been threatening eruption. A wind change Sunday sent the ash plume into commercial air routes, KTNA reported.

Caroline Boren, a spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines, the carrier worst affected by the plume, told the Anchorage Daily News it is especially hazardous at night because pilots cannot see the ash to fly around it. The ash can cause engine failure if it is sucked in.

Hundreds of people spent the night at the airport in Anchorage. William Villareal, a cannery worker trying to get to Stockton, Calif., said he and his friends had snack packs of noodles with them and a coffee shop gave them hot water.

"This isn't good for us," he said. "It's not good for us to run out of cash here. Food is expensive."

Norma Reynolds, 65, of Springfield, Ill., said she and her husband opted for a bench in the airport when they found they would have to spend $325 a night at a hotel. She had been at a family wedding in Fairbanks.