Friday, February 13, 2009

Waiting for a Volcano to Blow

If you've been following the news, you know that just across Cook Inlet from us, Mt. Redoubt has been experiencing "elevated seismicity, dominated by ongoing volcanic tremor and occasional small earthquakes," and it is expected to erupt sometime soon. We've been waiting. And waiting. And waiting. While the "edge" that we all feel living next door to an active volcano has worn off slightly (it's hard to maintain vigilance for long), our lives have been tweaked in a few ways.

  • Volcano watching. I keep the Redoubt volcano watch home page up on my computer all the time (http://www.avo.alaska.edu/activity/Redoubt.php) and at least a handful of times a day I pop over, refresh the page and check out the latest level of seismicity and webcams. While the ash trajectories are of primary importance when Redoubt does blow, until then, I hardly notice them. I also find myself going to the earthquake watch page (http://www.aeic.alaska.edu/recent/sub/index.html) at least once a day to see how many earthquakes have occurred in Alaska in the past few days. There are usually 85-120 quakes listed for the past couple days, and there is always at least one quake shown in red for the past hour.
  • Masks & nylons. We have dust masks in our cars and at home, so pretty much wherever we are, we'll have that essential covered. I also pulled some nylons out of my drawer and stashed them in the car. Apparently we put them over a filter and it protects the engine from being trashed by the volcanic ash.
  • Emergency plans. Most businesses, schools and other public places have eruption plans. Some will definitely close if there is an eruption, while others will wait and see how much ash is exploded and what direction the wind is blowing. A significant factor is when it happens. The big eruption of '89 was in the middle of the night, which creates a completely different scenerio than in the middle of the day, or as people are on their way home from work.
  • Wrap up. Each night we wrap up our computers and I put all my electronic equipment in ziplock baggies. We also keep our VCR and a spattering of other delicate electronics wrapped up, and I've bagged up or put away other items in the house that I don't want to have to clean if we have significant dust in the house (or that I don't want to fall and break if we have a big earthquake).
  • Caulk. During the 5.73 quake we had last month, the house we live in shifted and we started getting breezes coming in. I caulked the seams in the house at the breeze points. I should have done that to keep the cold out, but I'm much more motivated to keep out the ash than the cold!
  • Keep an eye on the sky. I always keep an eye on the weather, but now I am more vigilant about noticing the weather/cloud cover to the west. I pay attention to what direction the wind is blowing, predicting whether we'd be in line for minor ashfall or major ashfall. Strange cloud formations get my attention and I study them rather than just glancing at them.
The first couple weeks after Redoubt was elevated to level Orange and Watch, I was edgy and tense. Now I just want it to blow and get it over with so we can stop waiting! Of course, this reminds me of a key factor: geological time. It is very different from human time, and it's not always predictible. Now I laughingly say that Redoubt is going to blow when we're not expecting it. But until it does, we're keeping our masks with us!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Michele,it sounds like your loving your move! I went the opposite,to Florida,I have 2 new grand babies coming this summer! I still attend college and changed my major to elem/special ed.my email is brendabonamie@yahoo.com and so glad you sound so happy!!!!!

Jen Jacobsen said...

Hi Michelle

I love your blog, and the pictures are gorgeous. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us.

On another note, I am a blogger in northern Minnesota. I have a blog called bloggingonblogs.com, and my most recent post was on your blog. If there is anything you would like to change, please contact me @ seamist19612000@yahoo.com

Sincerely
Jen