Ash falls on False Pass after Shishaldin sends volcanic plume 30,000 feet

The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has increased the Aviation Color Code to “red” and Alert Level to “warning,” following an ash eruption at Shishaldin Volcano. (WOODSEN SAUNDERS)

An eruption at Shishaldin Volcano – located on Unimak Island about 23 miles southwest of the community of False Pass – intensified Sunday, generating an ash-rich volcanic plume that was drifting to the south-southeast.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) has increased the Aviation Color Code to “red” and Alert Level to “warning.” The National Weather Service has issued a SIGMET warning.

“The volcanic cloud extends up to [approximately] 90 miles from the volcano, with its top as high as 30,000 feet,” said the AVO in a press release.

Chris Stewart is the Village Public Safety Officer in False Pass, where some trace ashfall has been reported. He said some precautions have been put in place. The local clinic is prepared and recommending community members wear N95 particulate masks and eye protection to protect against fine ash particles.

Shishaldin Volcano erupted Sunday, sending an ash cloud about 30,000 feet, causing the horizon to look purple from False Pass. (Chris Stewart)

“You can see [the ash fall] on top of the snow, but it’s not to the point where it’s coating everything yet,” said Stewart. “Since the wind has died down here so much, we do have a really great view of the ash cloud. We have a purple horizon to the west right now.”

Stewart said this is the first time the community has had ash fallout this year, despite a number of eruptions at the volcano in the past few weeks.

The AVO is monitoring the volcano closely. While there are no indications of a major eruption, Shishaldin is a volcano with an ability to ramp up quickly.

It is one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutian Island chain. It has had at least 54 episodes of unrest, including over 24 confirmed eruptions, since 1775.

Nat Herz with Alaska Public Media contributed reporting from Anchorage.