Image: Ash on snow in Alaska village
Al Grillo  /  AP
Ash from Mount Redoubt blankets the snowdrifts on an old fishing boat in the town of Ninilchik, Alaska, Thursday.
updated 3/28/2009 8:47:37 PM ET 2009-03-29T00:47:37

Alaska's Mount Redoubt continued to erupt Saturday, sending one ash plume 50,000 feet into the air.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage said the volcano had a significant eruption at 1:20 a.m. local time Saturday and a less powerful eruption at 2 p.m. local time.

The ash is expected to move north toward the Alaska Range, missing Anchorage, which is about 100 miles from the volcano.

After the first eruption, the observatory detected strong seismic activity lasting 20 minutes or more followed by an hours-long low-level tremor.

"The vent has kind of opened up and there are gasses and venting occurring. That is likely producing the tremor," said Chris Waythomas, a geologist at the observatory.

"There is likely a lot of water vapor, which turns to ice, which gives the plumes this whitish appearance, but there is still a lot of ash in there," he said.

Alaska Airlines, the state's largest carrier, canceled eight flights early Saturday, but since then operations had been fairly normal, spokesman Paul McElroy said.

The airline has canceled more than 150 flights affecting an estimated 10,000 passengers since the volcanic eruptions began last Sunday. Ash can cause engines to stall.

Since the series of eruptions began Sunday night, the volcano has had about a dozen bursts. The last time the volcano erupted was during a four-month period in 1989-90.

Two mudflows produced by the volcano Friday were moving down a slough and tributary toward the Drift River Terminal, where 6.2 million gallons of oil is stored, said Chris Waythomas, a geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

A concrete-reinforced dike is holding the mud back and protecting the terminal's oil storage tanks from damage.

Image: Map showing location of Mount Redoubt in Alaska
J. Bell  /  AP
Map locates the Redoubt volcano near Anchorage, Alaska

The Coast Guard said the plan was to keep the oil in the tanks instead of draining it.

"The oil is safe where it is at right now," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Joseph Losciuto.

Falling ash
Closer to Anchorage, the concern Friday was ash, a fear that proved mostly unfounded. There were no immediate reports of ash falling in the city.

Airborne volcanic ash, even in relatively small amounts, can damage airplane and automobile engines. Because of the eruptions, Alaska Airlines, the state's largest carrier, said there were limited flights in and out of Anchorage.

Cissy Matson, manager for the NAPA Auto Parts store in suburban Eagle River, said dozens of people had come in Thursday asking about air filters.

Early Friday morning, Matson was outside the store giving Becki Ezzell a quick lesson on where to put the new air filter she was buying for her 20-year-old daughter's car.

"I know that ash chokes off the air to the engine and it just stops. That would be very scary for her," Ezzell said.

Ezzell had another worry, too: The eruption had stranded her husband at the Minneapolis airport. "They were just getting on the plane and it blew," Ezzell said. "He thought he was on his way home."

Still, Ezzell, who has lived in Alaska since 1969, said she's seen far worse when it comes to volcanoes exploding and spewing ash.

"I'm not going to make a big to-do about a little ash," she said.

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Video: Nature’s might in Redoubt


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