March 28, 2009

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt Still Showing Its Fury

Friday saw another round of volcanic explosions at Alaska's Mount Redoubt, shooting ash clouds as high as 50,000 feet above sea level and sending drivers on a run to the auto parts store for replacement air filters, the Associated Press reported.

The majority of the ash was anticipated to fall to the north, the National Weather Service proposed, however slight amounts of ash from two Friday eruptions, as well as smaller overnight eruptions, could send ash falling on Anchorage itself. 

The volcano has undergone a sequence of bursts since the eruptions began last Sunday night, with a particular Thursday eruption projecting ash 65,000 feet into the air. Last accounts of volcanic eruption at this site were reported in late 1989 and early 1990. 

Two more explosions of ash clouds reaching heights of 40,000 and 51,000 feet were witnessed on late Friday.

Geologist, Chris Waythomas, with the Alaska Volcano Observatory said Friday's eruptions triggered two mudflows that moved down a marsh and tributary into the Drift River Terminal where 6.2 million gallons of oil were being housed. 

The terminal's oil storage tanks are being protected by a concrete-reinforced dike designed to barricade the mud. 

The plan is to maintain the oil in the tanks instead of draining it, the Coast Guard informed.

"The oil is safe where it is at right now," replied Coast Guard Commander Joseph Loscuito.

Some had worried that ash would fall in Anchorage on Friday, but this proved to be mere apprehension as no immediate accounts of ash had been observed.

The state's largest airline carrier, Alaska airlines, took precautionary measures by limiting their flights in and out of Anchorage.  Serious damage results if airborne volcanic ash enters the engine of automobile or airplane engines. 

Manager, Cissy Matson, for the Napa Auto Parts store in suburban Eagle River, said her store was bombarded by the dozens on Thursday with people hunting air filters and it she expected the same turn out on Friday. 

Matson was found early Friday morning giving a quick lesson to Becki Ezzell on how to install the new air filter she had purchased for her 20-year-old daughter's car. 

"I know that ash chokes off the air to the engine and it just stops. That would be very scary for her," Ezzell said.

Ezzell was concerned about another issue as well.  Her husband had been stranded at the Minneapolis airport since the eruption.  "They were just getting on the plane and it blew," she said. "He thought he was on his way home."

Yet this eruption is far from the worst thing Ezell has ever seen.  A resident of Alaska since 1969, she has seen much more treacherous conditions as result to volcanic activity and ash emission. 

"I'm not going to make a big to-do about a little ash," she commented.


Image Caption: Lower portion of the Drift Canyon. Visible is the central ice gorge down which flood waters travelled (waterfall and plunge pool in lower center); flow entering from left side of canyon is presumably from a runout generated by small pyroclastic flow. (March 26, 2009 17:35:24 AKDT - McGimsey, Game/AVO/USGS.


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