Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory have been closely watching Mt. Redoubt, an active volcano in the largely volcanic Aleutian Range, since the end of January, when geologists recorded a sharp rise in earthquake activity. Volcanoes can shoot ash 30,000 to 50,000’ high, and depending on wind and velocity, be carried more than 100 miles away. The threat level (Aviation Hazard Color Codes) has been raised from yellow to orange, which means there is heightened unrest with an increased likelihood of eruption, or volcanic eruption under way with no ash or minor ash emission. Anchorage is the nearest large city to Mt Redoubt. Falling ash and ash flows carry toxins into rivers and lakes. Glass particles in ash can also cause damage to vehicles.
Citizens of Alaska are not unfamiliar with these occurrences, and usually have advance warning in order to be prepared for the eruption of a volcano. These volcanoes are different from the types of those in Hawaii, as they produce molten lava. Ash fall from the Alaska volcanoes are tiny parts of rock and glass, which can cause severe injury to breathing passageways, eyes, nose, and open wounds.
As with any natural occurrence, we encourage persons in the area to be prepared the best way possible, by:
- Having a emergency first aid kit ready
- Staying inside as much as possible
- Wearing cotton face masks
- Covering face with wet cloths, if masks unavailable
- Wearing comfortable goggles, especially over contact lens
- Keeping fresh supplies on hand, i.e., water, food
- Closing windows and vents to chimneys.
Following most eruptions, the possibility of short-term minor discomforts such as nasal and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, uncomfortable breathing, skin irritations, and painful itchy eyes are typical results, rather than more serious health problems. However, persons who suffer from respiratory ailments should take extra precautions to be prepared.