Mount Redoubt continued blowing gas, steam and ash Wednesday as officials worked on plans to forestall risks to the oil tanks at the Drift River terminal, located in the volcano's shadow.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported continuing weak volcanic tremors and with occasional small earthquakes taking place on the stratovolcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.
A continuous ash plume reaching about 14,000 feet above sea level was being pushed by easterly winds that shifted in the afternoon. No ashfall alerts were in effect, with most of the fallout taking place near the volcano.
Scientists say the volcano could continue smoldering for days or weeks before settling down. A dome appears to be forming from cooling lava in Redoubt's crater and scientists were continuing to warn explosive activity could continue.
"I would imagine we'll get some further large event," said geophysicist and field engineer Cyrus Read. "I think the likelihood is that we will in the form of a dome collapse."
The volcano has caused some significant snags for air traffic, although Wednesday passenger flights appeared to mostly be moving as scheduled. But some major cargo carriers were redirecting some of their traffic.
FedEx spokeswoman Sally Davenport said the company has cut back work hours in Anchorage but all employees are still receiving their paychecks. FedEx is still bringing cargo planes to Alaska for local shipments but most of the cargo flights to and from Asia that land in Anchorage are being routed through Oakland instead.
UPS has sent some of its Anchorage employees home without pay due to the volcanic unrest but is bringing them back in when there are packages to sort, said spokesman Michael Mangeot. UPS moved most of its international cargo flights to temporary hubs in Portland, Seattle and Honolulu but is still making deliveries to Anchorage.
Concern for the Drift River oil terminal also continued. There are 6 million gallons of oil currently stored in the river's floodplain, and four workers were on site Wednesday clearing up mud and debris, paving the way for larger crews to arrive, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis said.
The area got a soaking after a large eruption March 23 launched a mudslide, but a $20 million dike installed at the terminal after Redoubt's last eruption in 1989 has so far held steady in protecting the tanks and their contents from disaster.
A unified command consisting of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Coast Guard and Cook Inlet Pipeline Co. that was established over the weekend to handle the response was still developing plans for getting a tanker to the terminal dock, about a mile offshore, to unload some of the oil, Francis said.
A Tesoro tanker was being eyed for the operation and officials were trying to schedule a window for it to get there, she said.
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