January 31, 2006
Augustine’s Ash Plume Stretches 5 Miles
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Ash from a steadily erupting volcano in south-central Alaska wafted slowly toward the southern Kenai Peninsula and grounded flights to and from Kodiak Island on Monday. Scientists reported that hot, gaseous pyroclastic flows were seen coursing down the volcano's slopes.
Augustine Volcano's eruption at 6:48 a.m. marked the fourth straight day of eruptions and generated an ash plume reaching almost five miles into the skies above Cook Inlet.
The ash was moving east and southeast at 10 to 15 mph and a sparse dusting was expected to fall on the Kenai Peninsula, the National Weather Service said. There were no reports of ash in skies near Anchorage, about 180 miles northeast of the volcano.
Eric Oswalt, plant foreman at Petro Marine Services on Kodiak said the ash was "really minimal, just barely enough to see on your windshield." But ash lingering overhead has prevented supply flights from reaching the island for two days.
Many Kodiak residents have stocked up on milk and air cleaners and thrown tarps over their cars.
"The biggest thing is there's no flights. That's what everybody's complaining about," Oswalt said.
Alaska Airlines grounded freight flights from Anchorage to Kodiak on Sunday and Monday. Ash particles can damage engines.
After a 10-day lull, Augustine erupted twice Friday, three times Saturday and once Sunday and Monday, with blasts of ash reaching heights of almost six miles, said scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Scientists who flew over the volcano on Sunday reported fast-moving pyroclastic flows - made mostly of gas, ash and rock - streaming down the sides of the island mountain, sending up tendrils of ash and particulate matter.
The collapse of a lava dome near the summit likely triggered the boulder-flecked flows, which could be moving at speeds between 50 and 100 mph, according to Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which helps run the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Scientists also saw ash escaping steadily from the mountain between eruptions.
The latest blasts were similar in size to a series of explosions in mid-January that sent light ashfall into Kenai Peninsula communities, scientists said. No communities have reported anything more than a minor dusting of ash.
Before this month's ash explosions, Augustine had last erupted in 1986.