Spring break came and went and still no eruption. We had plenty of small earthquakes which was in indicator of the volcano’s intention. It was a waiting game. Looking back, we could have made it to Michigan for a visit and been back. There had been no eruption, yet the AVO (Alaskan Volcano Observatory) kept saying the eruption was imminent. We had already gone to the store and stocked up on supplies. You needed face masks, extra air filters for your car, large plastic garbage bags, duck tape, and covers for your car. We were set.
Finally on the night of March 22nd at 10:38 pm Mt Redoubt erupted. We were officially cut off from the rest of the world. No flights in or out of Alaska..till they determined the ash fall was clear. The eruption blew first 20,000 feet into the atmosphere and then it went on to reach 50,000 feet. The paper the next morning was full of details about the eruption. There were 6 total major explosions in the first 24 hours. Mt. Redoubt was banging out the ash. Fortunately, the ash cloud went north of Anchorage and more towards Talkeetna. Anchorage is Alaska’s most populated city. The biggest airport in Alaska is here so it was good that the ash cloud didn’t drift our direction. When the Anchorage airport gets shut down it effectively shuts down the rest of the state.
We did not remain as lucky. Mt. Redoubt is 110 miles southwest of Anchorage across the Cook Inlet from the Kenai Peninsula. Ash fall did make it’s way to Anchorage. It was a bizarre experience. My son had a friend spending the night. We decided to go out for dinner. As we walked out the door, you could smell a burnt, slightly sulphuric smell. The skies had turned gray and all the snow was no longer white, but gray. We walked over to the car and it was covered in gray ash as well. People with allergies or any respiratory problems were warned to shelter in place. We went back in and did our best to seal up the apartment. Now it was either seal off the fireplace or keep a fire constantly going so ash didn’t make it’s way down the chimney and into the apartment. We opted to keep a fire going. Ash can ruin all electronics, such as your computers, DVD players, TV and anything else that’s expensive and electronic.
Mail service and deliveries were seriously hindered. On a personal level, we weren’t getting bills or any other such important mail. Luckily we were set up to pay our bills electronically. On the news, they showed the docks in Seattle lined with mail and packages that had been bound for Anchorage. You could see mail for as far as the eye could see. It made me think that we would never get all that mail and packages delivered.
I got our hair dryer out and plugged it in outside. With the aid of an extension cord I was able to clear the ash off of our car. We had been warned not to “wipe” it off. If you get a rag or use your windshield wipers to get the ash off you can scratch the windows and the paint. A friend who was born and raised in Anchorage, also advised us to use knee high panty hose to cover the muffler of our car so we could drive it without sucking the ash into the engine.
Fortunately, not to long after we had ash fall in Anchorage, it snowed. Snow or rain helps to clear the ash out of the air and then covers the ash on the ground. That was good news for the dogs. At least with fresh snow on the ground, they could go outside for their walks. And it was safe to drive after that. In dry conditions the ash will just get kicked up into the air and can get sucked into the engine and will eventually clog the engine.
I had been through blizzards, snow storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, dust storms, and every kind of weather you can imagine. Now I felt I was truly getting indoctrinated to being an Alaskan. I’ve been through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. What more could you ask? Our first winter had been intense and the learning curve was hard to bear but now we were officially educated.