Alaskans are use to a more rustic lifestyle than the rest of the lower 48 states. However, a possible upcoming event will likely be more than just an inconvenience.
Mt. Redoubt, located about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, is part of the Aleutian Range of Alaska, an active volcanic mountain range. Mount Redoubt erupted in 1902, 1966 and 1989. That last eruption spewed volcanic ash to a height of 45,000 ft and an area of about 7,700 sq. miles.
Ever since scientists warned that an eruption was imminent, citizens in Anchorage and other areas near the volcano have been stocking up at grocery stores, hardware stores (for face masks and goggles) and auto parts stores (for air filters).
Unlike some volcanoes, like the ones in Hawaii, which are noted for their molten red lava flows, Alaskan volcanoes feature ash plumes that shoot up 30,000 to 50,000 feet high — more than nine miles — into the jet stream. This ash is then carried miles away.
One of the biggest issues with these type of ash eruptions is air travel, or should I say that lack thereof. Whenever volcanic ash is present, planes cannot fly. Volcanic ash is abrasive, and can cause damage to the engines of an airliner. During that last eruption of Mt. Redoubt, a KLM jet carrying 231 passengers accidentally flew into the ash plume All four engines flamed out. Before the crew was able to restart the engines and after dropping more than 2 miles in altitude, smoke and a sulfur odor filled the cabin. The plane did land safely, but required $80 million in repairs.
While not the Alaskan cruise season (so most travelers won’t be impacted), you have to know that volcanoes have no seasons. Last August, near the end of the Alaskan cruise season, ash from Mt. Kasatochi, a volcano in the Aleutians, impacted much of Alaska. While it didn’t prevent ships from sailing, it did cancel flights for days, likely impacting some travelers efforts to either get to a ship or back home.
But then, travelers to Alaska should adhere to the adage that most residents live by: Go with the Flow.