Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Augustine eruption puts Southcentral on alert

Wasilla | Patty Sullivan | Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mt. Augustine blew ash 30,000 feet into the air after two explosions early Wednesday. The Alaska Volcano Observatory elevated its level of concern for the volcano to code red, the highest level. A major explosion is possible, according to the Observatory.

"The Department of Emergency Services is closely monitoring the situation in conjunction with state and federal agencies. We are preparing for an imminent eruption." said Dennis Brodigan, Emergency Services director.

Mt. Augustine is south of Homer, about 245 miles from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. It last erupted in 1986. The volcano has been increasingly active since last May. This morning, the National Weather Service issued warnings for falling ash to communities near Mt. Augustine as ash was drifting some 30 miles. Later, however, winds blew ash away from populated areas.

"The experts are telling us that there is no danger of a tsunami or direct explosive damage; our largest potential is for ashfall in the MAT-SU Borough should the prevailing winds at the time of eruption be blowing toward the Borough." Brodigan said.

The U.S. Geological Survey issued a press release saying it expects an eruption to be similar to Augustine's eruptions in 1976 and 1986 when volcanic ash spread throughout and perhaps beyond Cook Inlet. The MAT-SU Borough Emergency Services Department suggests becoming prepared and learning what to do if significant ash falls in the MAT-SU. The following tips were culled from informed websites.

  • Stay indoors if possible.
  • Close doors, windows, dampers.
  • Cover or seal places where ash can infiltrate your home. Place damp towels at door thresholds and other draft sources. Tape drafty windows.
  • Wear dust masks and eye goggles if you go outside. Brush off clothes or pets before going back into the house.
  • Do not drive if possible. Ash is abrasive and damages cars. Change air filters and oil filters frequently: every 50 to 100 miles in heavy dust (less than 50 feet visibility) and every 500 to 1,000 miles in light dust.
  • Cover with plastic and do not use computers, stereos, and other sensitive equipment.
  • Do not run exhaust fans or clothes dryers.
  • Vacuum furniture and carpets. Try not to wipe ash, it scratches.
  • Keep roofs clean of ash. More than four inches of wet ash can collapse a roof. Wet ash is very slippery. Be careful on ladders and roofs.

The Borough will continue to provide preparation information to the public, and preparation for response and recovery from potential hazards from falling ash.