Three students get to blame their absence from class on a mountain blowing up over spring break.
Tristan Leiter, Peter Musick, and Alysha Gates went home to Alaska for the break. Now they’re stuck there because the Anchorage airport is keeping all aircraft grounded due to the ash fall from Mt. Redoubt’s ongoing eruption.
Mt. Redoubt is a stratovolcano about 100 mi. southwest of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city and the students’ only way out of the state.
“I found out about my flight cancellation online,” said Gates. “I checked every 10 minutes, praying that it wouldn’t be cancelled, but, around 10:00 the night before I was supposed to leave, they posted [the notice].”
Redoubt had been “talking” since January, and residents who were in Redoubt’s crosshairs for ash fall made preparations and waited for the moment when Redoubt would release her fury.
Redoubt finally erupted around 10:38 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, there have been 11 distinct explosive events since that night. The highest plume of ash reached about 60,000 ft. above sea level.
Reports of ash fall in the Anchorage and Eagle River areas began Friday night. According to Anchorage resident Donna Moser, the city has received almost a quarter inch of ash over its snow covering. Gates reported that Eagle River also caught a light dusting.
Residents covered their vehicles and bought extra air filters, taped around the edges of doors, turned off and covered computers, kept pets indoors, and stocked up on respiratory masks and water.
“It’s just a nuisance,” said Musick. “People are freaking out, but there really isn’t anything you can do. Make sure windows and doors are fully closed and make sure cars have extra filters. Some friends put pantyhose [over the filters] to help.”
Ash can clog up car air filters, scratch paint, cause havoc in the lungs if inhaled and irritate eyes.
“The ash smells a little like sulfur and it’s a light grey color,” said Gates. “Pretty much everything just looks really dirty.”
Eagle River resident Lisa Moser said, “It smells like a volcano. I remember the air smelling like a volcano for weeks after St. Helens erupted.”
“It’s been really cloudy where I live because of the volcano, so I can’t even see the mountain, which makes me think this isn’t even real,” said Leiter, who lives in Sterling, about three hours south of Anchorage. “I kind of think the airlines just want to take a break from working.”
Leiter was scheduled to fly back to Oregon earlier this afternoon. Musick and Gates are supposed to depart tomorrow.
“I leave Anchorage at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and fly to Juneau,” said Gates. “Then I fly to Portland after a really long layover. It was the only flight I could get without missing a whole week of class.”
All three students should be back in classes Wednesday, assuming Mt. Redoubt keeps her cool for a while and the air clears of the destructive ash long enough for their flights to take off safely.
Redoubt last erupted in 1989. That eruption lasted almost six months, and AVO experts are saying this eruption could last weeks to months. Students from Alaska are hoping Redoubt’s wrath won’t prevent them from going home as scheduled when school ends in five weeks.
Updates on Mt. Redoubt’s activity, pictures, webcam stills, and ash fall advisories can be found on the AVO website at: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/activity/Redoubt.php.
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport flight statuses are available at http://aia-mufids.dot.state.ak.us/.