Pavlof Eruption Grounds Some PenAir, Grant Flights

Local flights were grounded on the Alaska Peninsula on Wednesday, as Pavlof Volcano continued to erupt.

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Ash plumes out of Pavlof Volcano on June 2. (Photo by Christopher Diaz)
Ash plumes out of Pavlof Volcano on June 2. (Photo by Christopher Diaz)

All PenAir flights in and out of Cold Bay and Unalaska were canceled today, amid concerns about volcanic ash blowing in the way of planes.

Grant Aviation’s flights to and from Unalaska were also canceled. Staff there said bad weather made it hard to keep Pavlof’s ash plume in sight.

PenAir spokeswoman Missy Roberts says at least 200 people were impacted by their cancelations today. She’s not sure yet if they’ll be able to fly tomorrow. If they can, she says they’ll try to add extra flights for stranded passengers.

Pavlof began erupting on Saturday. Alaska Volcano Observatory geologist Game McGimsey says the volcano’s seismic activity reached a high point yesterday, when its alert status was elevated to a red color code. It’s since been notched back down to orange as the activity decreased.

But the volcano’s ash and steam plume is still going strong. McGimsey says it was around 20,000 feet in height today, spiking to 30,000 feet at times.

The volcano has spread a haze of fine ash over Cold Bay, but McGimsey says there haven’t been reports of ashfall there yet.

There was a report of ash in Sand Point — PenAir told the AVO they had to sweep off their runways and plane windshields before flying there today. McGimsey says it’s surprising for ash to have blown that way, but not impossible. There haven’t been any volcano-related flight cancelations in Sand Point so far.

Annie Ropeik is a reporter for KUCB in Unalaska.

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