Near Anchorage (AK) - The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised the aviation color code to red on Saturday March 21 at 10:38pm (its highest level) and is now reporting that on late Monday and early Tuesday of last week Mount Redoubt erupted in "four large explosions" launching ash an estimated distance of nine miles into the air.
This eruption follows a period of unrest by the volcano earlier in the year. Mount Redoubt has been monitored closely ever since, with geologists warning that eruptions could occur at any point in time.
A steam plume was ejected nearly 1,000 feet into the air on Saturday. In the past 48 hours, there has also been increased earthquake activity, which has prompted scientists to raise the alert level of Mount Redoubt. On Sunday morning March 22, there were between 40 and 50 earthquakes recorded every hour.
Mount Redoubt is 10,197 feet tall (just under two miles) and is located about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage -- the most populated city in the state (with 626,932 people in 2008, down from 670,053 in 2006). "The ash cloud went to 50,000 feet [almost 10 miles], and it's currently drifting toward the north, northeast," said Janet Schaefer, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Geologists at the observatory stated the volcano erupted four different times between 10:30pm on Monday and 1:40am on Tuesday (in just over three hours).
"It looks like (Anchorage) might dodge the bullet," Alaska Volcano Observatory geophysicist Peter Cervelli told the Anchorage Daily News.
The majority of ash fell immediately, but appeared as nothing more than a light dusting. The ash becomes suspended in the atmosphere for a period of time, but doesn't affect air travel.
The volcano last erupted during a four month span from 1989 to 1990. On December 15, 1989, a Redoubt eruption carried ash over 150 miles and into the path of a KLM jet, the engine stopped and the jet fell more than ten thousand feet before the crew was able to get the engines restarted and safely land the jet in Anchorage.