|Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009|
Mount Redoubt volcano erupted early Monday morning, sending ash clouds to 50,000 feet and spreading ash in small amounts at least 120 miles to the northeast. The 10,190-foot stratovolcano is located in Lake Clark National Park, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. Park historian John Branson said the small community of Port Alsworth, where the park's field offices are located, did not have any ashfall, but that "there was a definite strong smell of fire and brimstone â you could not escape smelling it." Branson said that he noticed the smell at about 6:45 a.m. on Monday as he was leaving his house. The sulpherous, rotten-egg smell lingered for at least a couple of hours until the winds shifted. The volcano provided seismic hints of activity for several weeks prior to Monday's eruption. The ash resulted in some cancelled commercial airline flights, particularly those headed north or west from Anchorage. It also put park superintendent Joel Hard on "volcano hold" today when he was scheduled to fly from Anchorage to the park. Ash made a thin and spotty dusting in Talkeetna, where the south district ranger station of Denali National Park is located. One small community north and west of Anchorage reported that a quarter inch of ash had fallen. Redoubt last erupted in 1989 in an event that lasted four months and included over 23 major explosive events. âI remember the last time Redoubt went off,â Hard said, âit seemed to go on forever and disrupted everything from aviation to electrical utilities. Weâll just have to wait and see how this eruption unfolds. One thingâs for sure, they're all different and happen on their own timeline.â Over the last several years, Anchorage has seen ashfalls resulting from Redoubt and other volcanoes which line the Cook Inlet coast. Alaska Regional Office employees in Anchorage are under instructions this week to take some precautionary measures by covering computers and phones. The office air handling systems are also being shut down at night. Volcanic ash is a very fine material, and has very sharp edges which can damage everything from electronics to eyes and lungs. The regional office has also reactivated its incident command team, which is providing daily early morning telephone message updates to employees regarding the volcano and what, if any, effects it is having on normal office operations. Contingency plans have also been updated over the past several weeks to have dust masks on hand at the office, to utilize a system keeping any ash from being tracked in the building, and to provide advice to employees on home emergency supplies, vehicle use and maintenance, and other ash-related issues. Updates on the volcano are made available by the Alaska Volcano Observatory, http://www.avo.alaska.edu/activity/Redoubt.php. The Anchorage Daily News also has regular updates and stories on the eruption at www.adn.com .