Friday, April 3, 2009

Fallout from an Eruption

Yesterday as my daughter and I were about to head out the door to go running I commented, "Oh, it's snowing." She looked at me with a question in her eyes: "Are you sure?" An hour later I made the same comment and my husband said, "Are you sure it's not ash?" That is what having a volcano in our backyard has done to us: we question whether snow is really snow--at least when it is a light snow like when we had our ashfall last week.

Other fallout:
Dirty cars: the first few days after the ashfall here in Homer every car in sight was dirty, covered with ash. The one local car wash has had an incredible spurt of business as people gradually get over there and get the ash washed off their vehicles. Because the ash is so hard and abrasive (unlike wood ash), it is not recommended that one use a brush; it might scratch the finish or even the windshield. The power sprayer comes in handy for this. Our cars are still so filthy I wouldn't even want to put a picture of them up.

Dirty snow: You know what dirty snow along the edge of the road in the springtime looks like, right? Well, the snow was like that everywhere! Big yuck! Then it finally snowed and covered it up, but now it is melting and exposing the dirty layer again! As much as I love snow, I cannot say how much I want it to melt away so I don't have so much dirty snow around! Of course, it's April 3 and I know the snow will stick to about mid-May unless something bizarre happens. This is all at elevation, where we are; in Homer there is virtually no snow so it already looks like drab spring there, and the ash blows around worse there as well.

Fun stuff cancelled: This past weekend I was supposed to be the skier on a team in the Sea to Ski race (5k run, 7k bike, 5k ski), but it was canceled due to snow conditions (who wants to rip up their impeccably waxed skis??) and health concerns (breathing ash-y air). It ended up being a blustery day and the ash was blowing some, so it was a good call, but still disappointing. Our local ski/boarding slope, Ohlson Mountain, was closed that day for similar reasons, which bummed out my daughter. With the few inches of new snow earlier in the week, the groomers finally got out and groomed the ski trails, but I'm still a little leery. When I snowshoed a few days ago every step broke through the new snow into the ash layer, so looking back on our trail was like looking at a line of dark snow.

Now we're back in watching mode. There have been 18 eruptions so far in the past 2 weeks (it seems like much longer than that), and the volcanic activity at Redoubt is ongoing. Supposedly the radar shows a haze of volcanic ash in the atmosphere over the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage Bowl and Mat-Su Valley. My throat has been sore for the past couple days without any other symptoms, so it makes me wonder what I'm breathing.

When we travel or head into town, we check the AVO website first to see if there has been a recent eruption and which way the wind is blowing (no guarantees that there will be an ashfall even if it is blowing our way). And my "mom" question as my family walks out the door is: "Do you have a mask?"

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