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Alaska's Mt. Redoubt spews ash 65,000 feet, placing Kenai Peninsula residents on alert

March 26, 2009 | 12:32 pm

Eruption plume from Mt. Redoubt as viewed from Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska.

Alaska's Mt. Redoubt sounded a late wake-up call this morning, erupting at 9:24 local time and sending a cloud of ash 65,000 feet, causing another disruption of service on Alaska Airlines and placing Kenai Peninsula residents on alert.

The explosion produced a swift mud flow down the Drift River and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Drift River drainage because of rapidly melting snow and ice. Residents within the drainage area were advised to seek higher ground and those along streams and creeks were urged to "protect life and property."

An ash fall advisory was in effect until 4 p.m. for the western Kenai Peninsula, 50 miles to the east. I just called Mark Glassmaker, who runs Alaska Fishing Lodge on the Kenai, and he said the wind had changed to a southerly direction toward Homer, at the south portion of the peninsula.

"The only sign that anyone on the Kenai Peninsula has felt is just a really light sulfur smell," Glassmaker said, adding that he did not expect Redoubt to seriously jeopardize the upcoming salmon-fishing season.

"I've been doing this for more than 20 years and had volcanoes go off in the middle of season and it has not had much of an effect on the fisheries or wildlife," Glassmaker said. "But if it happens in the middle of July, during our busiest month, and a lot of flights shut down, it'll be a bummer."

I also called the Homer Chamber of Commerce and spoke with visitor services manager Linda Broadhead, who said a recent king salmon derby just paid more than $100,000 to competitors, and that the city is anticipating good times for those competing in the popular Homer Halibut Derby beginning May 1.

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Broadhead said about 12:30 p.m. local time that Homer had not yet experienced noticeable ash fall. "But we've covered our computers and taken all the necessary precautions," she added.

This morning's eruption was the ninth since the first one Sunday night. "So we're thinking this is going to continue possibly a month or two," Broadhead said. That, of course, is wishful thinking.

The last series of Redoubt eruptions, in 1989-90, lasted five months.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Eruption plume from Mt. Redoubt as viewed from Diamond Ridge near Homer, Alaska. Credit: Dennis Anderson
Map: Alaska Volcano Observatory

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