Mount Redoubt does not like to be ignored, or so it would seem, as the volcano erupted again just a day after the Alaska Volcano Observatory lowered its threat level from "warning" to "watch," after several quiet days.
Redoubt erupted at 6 a.m. on Saturday, with what the AVO described as a "significant explosive event" that sent ash 50,000 feet into the atmosphere. The National Weather Service subsequently issued an ash advisory that lasted until 10 a.m. from Ninilchik southward. The Saturday morning eruption was the largest -- in terms of the length of time ash was emitted into the atmosphere -- of the volcano's 2009 large scale eruptions that began on March 22.
"It was about 30 to 35 minutes of strong seismic activity, with ash being emitted the whole time," said Tina Neal, a geologist with the AVO.
Lightning was observed in the eruption cloud, and ashfall resulting from this Saturday morning event was reported in Homer, Anchor Point and Seldovia.
"The last eruption was nothing. This time we absolutely got hit with ash," said Carrie Campbell, a desk clerk at the Land's End Resort in Homer.
"We got about an eighth of an inch of ash this time, and it's just blowing around. Every time you walk outside you get a mouth full of it. It's pretty yucky. It even seems chunkier than last time," Campbell said.
Several reports to the AVO were that this ash was more coarse than has previously been seen on this side of the inlet. Neal said there were at least two possibilities for why this may have been.
"One possibility is the windspeeds were very high, so they may have carried coarse larger particles further. The other is that more coarse particles were given off due to the length of the eruption event," she said.
While the significant explosive event happened before many people may have been awake to view it, Redoubt continued to give of a plume of "mostly water vapor, gas, and likely small amounts of ash" rising to about 15,000 feet, for most of the day. This is perhaps the longest the volcano has been in view while giving off emissions. Most of the active events since March have taken place during the dark of night or from behind cloud cover.
"AVO seismometers did also indicate a lahar in the Drift River Valley, and past the (Drift River Oil) terminal," Neal said, referring to a crude oil storage facility, operated by Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co., which is at the mouth of the Drift River.
As to the extent of the lahar -- which is a mixture of volcanic material and water, that originates on or from the volcano -- the AVO said this was still to be determined. The AVO was dispatching two crews, one by helicopter and one by fixed wing plane, to asses the situation on Saturday afternoon.
Cook Inlet Pipe Line Co., held a press conference on Saturday afternoon, at which CIPL Vice President Rod Ficken said none of the 11 workers at the terminal were injured during the volcano's blast, no oil was spilled and no water entered the tank farm area.
However, a tanker that had moved into the area and was scheduled to off-load oil from Drift River tanks on Saturday, moved south, and out of the area, when the eruption occurred. The tanker was not damaged, but the earliest the it would likely resume operations is today, officials said, and only after it has been determined that equipment at the oil terminal was not damaged and that crews can resume work safely.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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