Monday, March 23, 2009

The Volcano

Mount Redoubt blew last night.

The volcano is erupting right now - the news just broadcast that the fifth major explosion of this eruption series has just occurred and the ash plume is expected to reach 60,000 feet.

No ash has fallen here or in Anchorage. So far it's business as usual.

Updates to follow.
Update 1: 3/23/09 06:33
It appears at the moment that the winds are such that the initial ash fall will pass both north and south of Anchorage , but not on the city itself. It does look, however, as if the wind transport will cause some of it to pass directly over my house here in Palmer. We'll see.

Flights out of Anchorage International are being grounded or redirected per normal procedure.

At the moment everything is normal, schools and businesses are open. Power and communications are unaffected. The bases and emergency services are on alert per standard procedure.

My generators are prepped and ready to go. We have water and supplies if the power goes out. And plenty of firewood if the gas goes offline. We have masks and goggles should the ash fall here. At the moment we're not expecting to need any of it - but I'm a big believer in being prepared.

Sun-up in an hour, then we'll know more.
3/23/09 0800
Redoubt continues to erupt.

The wind is blowing the ashfall north, right at us. However, the Alaska Volcano Observatory and the National Weather Service are predicting only light ashfall here at the moment. I haven't seen any, and I expect that if any ash is falling it's north of here up near Talkeetna.

The AVO webcam nearest the volcano (station RSO) is dead, buried in ash, or knocked offline by seismic shock sometime during the night. If the weather clears we might get some real time pictures from the webcam mounted on a Chevron platform in the Cook Inlet - but I wouldn't hold your breath on that one. Right now it's showing mostly fog, which is what it usually shows.

As of this moment, 19 passenger flights into or out of Anchorage International have been canceled. Two flights were turned back to Seattle. Everything else here is grounded at the moment. International cargo flights, the vast bulk of the traffic through Anchorage Intl, are also grounded at the moment, so if you were shipping somthing to Asia via FedEx, it probably ain't gonna get there overnight, at least not through Alaska anyway.

People mostly seem to be taking it in stride. This morning at the coffee shop more people were bitching about our retarded Governor's decision to reject a big chunk of the Federal Bailout while jobs and schools and the oil industry are collapsing around us. Something tells me that this stupid politicking bitch is going to be out of a job come 2010, because, seriously here folks, if the MatSu Valley Fundies are talking smack about her, she really has no base left at all.
3/23/09 09:00
Sunrise was very, very orange today. Turning yellow and cloudy now though. Sorry, didn't get a picture.

I used to live on Iceland, with more active volcanoes than you can shake a stick at - if you could find a stick on Iceland that is. I was in Sicily in the mid-80's for the Mount Etna eruption. And I used to work far out in the Aleutians, during several eruptions of various volcanoes. One thing about volcanic ash, it makes for some pretty awesome skies.

If we get more high altitude ash drift, sunset should be spectacular. I'll try to have the camera ready.
3/23/09 12:00
Just talked to a friend with the USGS, biggest explosion was last night, the eruptions have been tapering off. However that doesn't mean that the event is over, and that doesn't mean that another big one couldn't occur at any moment. Redoubt could follow this pattern for months, or go silent again this week. Vulcanology isn't an exact science, prediction wise. Probability is that Redoubt will continue to erupt, just as it did the last time and the time before that, for several months.

The AVO is planning an overflight this afternoon, and in fact should be airborne now. How close they can get depends on a lot of things - as you might imagine. The weather over the mountain isn't the best, and visibility sucks even without a major eruption going on, so whether or not we get some clear pictures is anybody's guess at this point.

Definately an odd tint in the sky today, color wise.

If I sound a bit cavalier about this whole volcano thing, it's because I am.

I can afford to be.

See, the USGS and Alaska Volcano Observatory have been monitoring Mount Redoubt and the other active volcanoes here in The Great Land for many, many years. When Redoubt began to rumble, they were all over it.

The geologists, geophysicists, and the scientists of the USGS looked at the twitches on their graphs and listened to the telemetry from the remote sensors and did what they do. They began predicting this eruption months ago.

The AVO has been in the papers, on TV, on the local radio, and on the web for months, providing updates, advice, and recomendation for preparedness. As a result our government, infrastructure, emergency services, State National Guard, and many citizens are prepared. The schools and airports and towns all have emergency plans, the airports put theirs into effect this morning. We've got filter masks and generators. We've got goggles and spare air filters for the cars. We've got shovels, and radios, and batteries. We've got food and fuels and more than anything we know not to panic.

But think about it for a minute. It's Alaska, we're remote and far from help. Should the power plants go down - and this is the single largest threat we face, both because turbines don't take kindly to particulate ingestion and because wet ash falling on power lines causes catastrophic short cicuits - we could easily end up with 200,000 people in the dark without heat, power, or communications, in the middle of winter.

It won't happen, we were warned and as a result we're preparred. But it is that very warning system idiots like Bobby Jindal want to take away, apparently on the theory that it's better to get hit without preparation - see how well that worked in New Orleans, in Bobby's home state? Yeah, the mind boggles.
3/23/09 1600

The eruption has tapered off for the moment. No new ash emissions in the last several hours. No ash fall here, the winds are carrying it north of us, what little there is.

AVO has an overflight in progress at the moment, should be some updated pictures later this evening.

The phone call flood and email deluge continue however.

We're fine, really.
3/23/09 2000

Just had another big explosion. Still waiting on the details
3/24/09 0700

All quiet. No new eruptions since last night. No ash fall here.

Some cool pictures from yesterday's flyover can be found here.


  1. You live in such a dull place.

  2. Well, I wasn't even going to mention the bear attack yesterday...

  3. How exciting!

    Car Talk mentioned placing panty hose over the air intakes of cars to keep the ask from ruining the engine.

  4. Yeah, I heard the news about your pet volcano -- but they didn't mention whether Jim Wright's house was affected. These news people, so unreliable.

    Dr. Phil

  5. Stay safe. You're not on a fault line, are you? Worst quake I want through in Japan was after an eruption in Hokkiado.

  6. John, I sit directly on top of the Knik fault.

    But, you know, thanks for mentioning it. Maybe you could call my mother in law and give her something else to worry about. ;)

  7. Far be it from me to tempt fate, but I'd just like to point out that if the fault opens up and swallows you, there's every chance in the world that they'll rename it "The Great Alaskan Ass-crack". Think of the notoriety and the (posthumous) immortality!

  8. (pssst, Jim, don't mention the killer bees... or the herds of rabid shrews...)

  9. Bunnies, Karl. Snowshoe Hares...

    ...with big pointy teeth and huge floppy ears!

  10. Glad to know everything's ok so far.

  11. It's just another day in Alaska, Matt. I'm just doing this post to keep friends and family informed at this point.

  12. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I love Alaska (feel free to call me stupid--I'll cheerfully agree with anyone who does). The danger (which, honestly, is fairly minimal at the moment) and excitement of having volcanoes in your backyard.

    It's a geeky geology boy's dream come true.

    (Of course, I don't have to fly anywhere or drive anywhere at the moment.)

  13. I'm with ScottE, I feel the same way.

    I'm sitting here, looking through the double doors of my den into the sunroom and down over the valley, directly towards Redoubt. The sky is a weird yellow at the moment, but it's mostly overcast here. Hoping it will clear near sunset. Should be pretty cool.

    But like Scott said, I don't have to drive and I don't have to fly. And I've got plenty of beer and a generator to keep it at the proper temperature. So, I'm good.

  14. Jim, it seems that volcanoes and other major earth trauma seem to happen quite a lot where you are.

    Do me a favor? DON'T COME TO BOSTON!

    On second thought, if you wipe it out by attracting a volcano, maybe I can move back to Texas. Jim, my friend, can I get you to visit sometime soon?

  15. Don't panic? Where's the fun in THAT?!

  16. But, you know, thanks for mentioning it. Maybe you could call my mother in law and give her something else to worry about.

    Sure, what's her number? That quake in Japan lasted a looooong time.


  17. I am glad that you seem to have everything covered, although you don't mention how you will protect against the rabid (rabit) hares. You know the ones with great gnashing teeth. Don't they get super powers from volcanoes? Super powered killer hares?

  18. although you don't mention how you will protect against the rabid (rabit) hares

    Ye Olde Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, Kimby, of course. Don't you get Monty Python in Canada?

  19. Ye Olde Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, Kimby, of course.

    Yeah, Kimby, 'tis one of the sacred relics Brother Jim carries with him.

  20. B-B-B-B-Bear attack? Yikes! :-S

    Polar bear or Grizzly?


  21. Glad you're OK Jim. Thank you for the updates.

    Jindal's a tool. I was happy to vote against him in 2003, but when he won governor I had left the state and was unable to add my nay vote.

  22. Neither, black, supposedly. Though it's reported behavior was more like a brown, which makes me suspect it was misidentified.

    Again, just life in Alaska.

  23. Ye Olde Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, Kimby, of course. Don't you get Monty Python in Canada?

    Of course we do, but you are talking VOLCANIC HARES! Not the everyday garden variety of teeth gnashing bunnies. I don't know if the Holy Hand Grenade would work on such a powerful beast. You may have to call in The Knights that say Ni. I happen to know where you can get some shrubbery if needed.

  24. Maybe they're rabid VOLCANIC EASTER BUNNIES.

    There's a disturbance in the force (of nature) and they've been awakened several weeks too early and are CRANKY...hence the teeth-sharpening rituals, etc...

    all jokes aside, sounds like you've got everything covered, well, at least the generator for the beer cooler.

    Stay safe.

  25. BTW, glad you're okay with that whole mountain blowing up thing.


Comments on this blog are moderated. Each will be reviewed before being allowed to post. This may take a while. I don't allow personal attacks, trolling, or obnoxious stupidity. If you post anonymously and hide behind an IP blocker, I'm a lot more likely to consider you a troll. Be sure to read the commenting rules before you start typing. Really.