Volcanic eruption in Alaska leads to cancellation of 20 flights
Volcanic eruption in Alaska leads to cancellation of 20 flights

After 20,000 feet high ash plume created Monday by a volcanic eruption in Alaska, the local authorities raised alert level. The volcanic event led to the grounding of certain flights and curbs on travel by road to western and northern parts of the state. Strong winds pushed the ash cloud, which rose to 20,000 feet, into the heart of the state.

Named Pavlof Volcano, it is one of Alaska’s most active volcanoes, which erupted about 4 p.m. Sunday in the 8,261-foot mountain. The site is some 625 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula, the finger of land that sticks out from mainland Alaska toward the Aleutian Islands. Geologists say Pavlof falls in the category of open-system volcano.

The eruptions along with lightning over the mountain continued overnight, a phenomenon indicated by pressure sensors. The ash cloud had risen to 37,000 feet by 7 a.m. Monday and winds to 50 mph or more had stretched it over more than 400 miles into interior Alaska.

Chris Waythomas, of the U.S. Geological Survey, which is part of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, along with the University of Alaska and the state Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, said the volcano site is right in the wheelhouse of a lot of flights crisscrossing Alaska.

“The pathways that magma follows to the surface are pretty open in a volcanological sense. They can convey magma and gas very easily. Magmas can move to the surface whenever they feel like it, more or less. The movement comes with little shaking of the ground, and the lack of earthquakes as an early warning of an eruption makes us go crazy monitoring them”, Waythomas said.

Prior to noon, Alaska Airlines was forced to cancel some 20 flights, thus affecting about 1,300 customers heading to Bethel, Kotzebue, Nome, Barrow and Deadhorse. However, flights to Anchorage or Fairbanks continue to ply as normal even as the Fairbanks route was being closely monitored by the company.

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