Monday, January 16, 2006

Five eruptions in Alaska!

Five significant eruptions of Augustine Volcano sent ash clouds miles into the air and closed schools on the southern Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

But experts said Friday's eruptions were not expected to pile up dangerous ash in communities.

The eruptions disrupted scheduled flights when Alaska Airlines announced it would not fly to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Alaska Airlines announced it had cancelled 28 flights scheduled. The state ferry Kennicott's Friday evening sailing from Kodiak to Homer was also cancelled.

The mountain, on an isolated and uninhabited island about 180 miles south of Anchorage, first erupted for 44 minutes, sending a plume 34,000 feet high, more than six miles.

A second eruption followed but lasted only four-and-a-half minutes. The Alaska Volcano Observatory said it sent up a plume at least 30,000ft high. One pilot's report put the plume at 52,000ft or nearly 10 miles.

Pilots reported lightning in the plume, said observatory spokeswoman Jennifer Adleman. Lightning is created in ash plumes when particles rub together and generate a static charge.

The volcano erupted again with a plume again reported over 30,000 feet. Seismic data indicated volcanic mudflows were probably moving down the flanks of the mountain. A fourth eruption occurred about 4.40pm and lasted for four minutes. The National Weather Service said the plume was nearly six miles high, and was heading south east towards the Barren Islands, north of Kodiak.
The fifth eruption was reported just before 7pm, with the plume reaching about 30,000 feet, and the observatory received reports of some ash falling in the community of Homer.

Similar short-lived explosive activity is expected to continue over the next several days or weeks, Adleman said, and additional eruptions could occur with little or no warning.

Friday's eruptions followed two eruptions early on Wednesday.

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