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Pavlof Ash Falls On Sand Point

By | May 20, 2013 - 5:32 pm

Pavlof volcano eruption column, May 18, 2013. Photo courtesy Theo Chesley.

Pavlof volcano eruption column, May 18, 2013. Photo courtesy Theo Chesley.

Pavlof Volcano continued to erupt over the weekend, spitting a plume of ash that reached 22,000 feet into the sky.

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That’s not enough to affect international air traffic. But it was enough to cancel air service to the village of Sand Point. A PenAir representative confirms that planes haven’t made it to Sand Point since Thursday, but declined to say exactly why.

Ashfall in Sand Point airport is probably to blame, according to Rick Wessels. He’s a geophysicist for the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and he’s monitoring Pavlof, which has been sprinkling ash on Sand Point all weekend.

Index map showing location of Pavlof volcano and other Alaska Peninsula volcanoes. Image by Seth Snedigar and Janet Schaefer.

Index map showing location of Pavlof volcano and other Alaska Peninsula volcanoes. Image by Seth Snedigar and Janet Schaefer.

“Even if it doesn’t ruin the engine, it is hard on the air filters and so on,” Wessels says. “It requires a lot more maintenance.”

Sand Point resident David Osterback says he didn’t notice any ash until Sunday morning, when he woke up to an accumulation outside his house.

“Easiest place to see it was on the windshield of the vehicles — kind of a light brownish in color, so it kind of blended in with most everything,” says Osterback. “But it definitely was ash. It was a pretty good dusting — that’s for sure.”

Now the forecast calls for northerly winds, which means the southern-lying Sand Point may get some relief. But since Pavlof is still spewing steam and ash, that means the communities of Nelson Lagoon and Port Moller are now in the line of fire.

Merle Brandell is a water plant operator and wildlife guide in Nelson Lagoon. He saw the forecasts, and got on the community’s VHF radio band Sunday night to send out a warning about the volcano.

“A lot of people put fuel in their house and stocked up on water and groceries,” Brandell says. “They’re prepared to stay indoors the whole time if this does happen.”

Ash is expected to fall on Nelson Lagoon and Port Moller throughout Monday.

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