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Volcano status lowered; oil to be moved

Richard Mauer
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
Redoubt volcano's ash cloud looms overhead between Kenai and Ninilchik Saturday afternoon March 28, 2009.
Sunset at Mt. Redoubt, taken from Clam Gulch, Alaska on April 24, 2009.
Redoubt volcano, as seen on the morning of April 16, 2009, from Deep Creek, Kenai Peninsula.
Redoubt Volcano at 11:50 am on Sunday, April 5, 2009. Camera is located at AVO's Redoubt Hut, approximately 7.5 mi (12 km) from Redoubt's summit crater. This camera provides a view of the north flank of Redoubt.
This webcam on Mt. Redoubt shows a spattered lens after Saturday morning's 6:00 eruption. The volcano blew another ash plume an estimated 50,000 feet into the air, which then drifted over the western Kenai Peninsula. This image was made at 12:17PM April 4, 2009.
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. View is to the east. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. The haze at left below the drifting cloud is a region of active ash fall. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
Edith King covers her nose and mouth as ash from Mount Redoubt volcano falls on Anchorage Saturday evening March 28, 2009. King was waiting for the bus on Bragaw Street.
Summit crater of Redoubt Volcano showing the active lava dome and rubbly north front extending down the upper reaches of Drift gorge. This view is from high over the southwest rim. Note the persistent fumaroles up on the west slope of the gorge (left of center), and the diffuse ash plume rising lower in the gorge from hot debris shed from the dome.
Redoubt volcano around 2pm on Thursday, April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt's plume surrounds the setting sun April 1, 2009, as viewed from the mouth of the Kasilof River.
Wes Bell wares a dust mask handed out by the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska to protect himself from the ash from Redoubt Volcano Saturday, March 28, 2009 as leaves the ski area 40 miles south of Anchorage. The volcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage first erupted Sunday night with the most resent eruption Saturday afternoon.
Lightning from Redoubt's 1:20 am, March 28, eruption.
Redoubt's gas plume drifts south toward Iliamna, April 20, 2009. Photograph taken near Homer, AK.
Redoubt volcano as seen in an image grab from the AVO webcam across Cook Inlet on Thursday, April 16, 2009 shortly before 9am.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt volcano spews ash and steam on March 31, 2009.
Volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt and winter road grime cloud the air on Tuesday morning, March 31, 2009, as traffic moves along Tudor Road in Anchorage.
Lightning from Redoubt's 11:20 pm, March 27, eruption.
The dome inside Redoubt Volcano during heli-supported fieldwork, on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Redouby volcano as seen on an image grab from the AVO webcam north of the volcano about 8:51am on Thursday, April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Angie Diefenbach from the Alaska Volcano Observatory works in a snow pit collecting ash fall northwest of Redoubt Thursday, April 2, 2009.
Ash collects on a windshield following an eruption of Mount Redoubt volcano Saturday March 28, 2009 in west Anchorage.
Lightning from Redoubt's 11:20 pm, March 27, eruption.
USGS geologist, Kristi Wallace, digging a snow pit to sample ash fall deposits from Redoubt volcano. View is to the east with Drift River Valley in the background. on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Mount Redoubt continues to blow steam and ash as seen from near Homer on April 11, 2009.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Saturday April 4, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 2:30 pm on Saturday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 14,000 feet. Iliamna Volcano is in the background, just right of Redoubt.
Redoubt volcano in continuous eruption on March 31, 2009. Plume height is no more than 15,000 feet above sea level. The small amount of ash in the plume is creating a haze layer down wind of the volcano and dustings of fine ash are falling out of the plume. View is from the east.
Redoubt Volcano in eruption during an observation and gas data collection flight on March 30, 2009. Continuous emission of volcanic gas, water vapor, and ash is producing a plume rising to about 15,000 feet above sea level. The haze at left below the drifting cloud is a region of active ash fall. AVO scientists observed ash falling up to 25 miles downwind.
The plume from Redoubt's 3:29 pm, March 28, 2009 eruption, rose above the volcano and was photographed from Soldotna.
USGS geologist, Kristi Wallace, digging a snow pit to sample ash fall deposits from Redoubt volcano. View is to the east with Drift River Valley in the background. on Tuesday, April 21, 2009.
Mount Redoubt remains active, as seen from near Homer on April 11, 2009.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Sturday April 4, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 2:30 pm on Saturday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 14,000 feet.
Redoubt volcano continues to erupt as seen from Lake Clark Pass on March 31, 2009.
A skier makes a trail through ash from Redoubt Volcano as he makes his way off of the U.S. Alpine Championships course at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, 40 miles south of Anchorage, Saturday, March 28, 2009. The volcano, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, first erupted Sunday night with the most resent eruption Saturday afternoon.
Redoubt's plume from the volcano's 1:40 pm, March 28, 2009 eruption was photographed near Homer.
AVO geologist, Janet Schaefer collecting proximal tephra-fall (volcanic ash) deposits from the current eruption with Redoubt volcano as a backdrop on Monday, April 21, 2009.
Anaglyph of Redoubt, on April 4, 2009. For 3-D viewing, please use red-blue glasses, with left eye red.
An eruption plume rises above Mount Redoubt volcano, 50 miles across Cook Inlet from Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, April 4, 2009. The 10,197-foot mountain had another explosive eruption at 6 a.m. and has continued to emit ash and steam throughout the day, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Panorama of Redoubt Volcano plume trailing off to the northeast on March 31, 2009. The plume contains fine ash which is creating a haze layer downwind of the volcano. Image courtesy of Alaska Volcano Observatory.
Cutbank along Rust Slough, west of Drift River on March 22, 2009. Lahar deposit overlies snow, fluvial deposits, and 1990 lahar runout deposits,
Scientists from Alaska Volcano Observatory flew the Redoubt Volcano area Thursday March 26, 2009 for observation gas collection.
Fieldwork northwest of Redoubt volcano. Kristi Wallace measuring and collecting ash samples from the current eruption on March 31, 2009.
Although Mount Redoubt has been on the quiet side for a few days, it continues to emit steam and ash in a cloud that goes up to 20,000 feet at times. Sunset at the mouth of the Kasilof River on April 7, 2009 affords a good view of the volcano.
One of Redoubt's webcams shows the volcano steaming at just after 5pm Saturday April 4, 2009. The volcano had an explosive eruption Saturday morning just before 6:00.
Thermal infrared image taken on Tuesday, March 31, 2009, showing the likely base of a new lava dome in the crater of Redoubt Volcano. While the dome is completely obscured by ash and steam in the visible photographs, the heat of the new lava can often be detected by the thermal infrared camera. The image also shows a trail of hot block and ash confined to the canyon below the summit. Picture Date: March 31, 2009 13:44:07 AKDT Image Creator:
Impact from the volcanic ash fallout in Nikiski, Alaska on Monday, March 30, 2009. Fine ash is resuspended as vehicles drive over the recently deposited ash fall deposit from Redoubt Volcano. Photographer:
Redoubt volcano, viewed from the North Fork, Anchor Point at 6:30 pm, Thursday, March 26, 2009.
A steam plume was visible from Mount Redoubt on Monday evening, April 20, 2009, as viewed from Skyline Drive in Eagle River. The Anchorage skyline is visible in the foreground with Iliamna Volcano on the left.
On April 4, 2009, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite captured this image of the Drift River Valley where it connects with Cook Inlet. Lahars have stained the river valley a deep muddy brown. Water channels form branching patterns just west of the Cook Inlet shore, and the dark brown color of each water channel contrasts sharply with the nearby snow. The Drift River Oil Terminal resides in this network of channels, and part of the facility appears as an off-white rectangle in a landscape of meandering mudflows.
The hut webcam on Mount Redoubt shows a small plume at 3:21 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The volcano erupted explosively around 6am Saturday.
Ash and steam cloud from Redoubt Volcano as seen from Cannery Road in Kenai on Tuesday evening, March 31, 2009.
Redoubt volcano emitted a plume thought to contain little ash at 9:44 a.m. on March 30th, 2009.
Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey
Mount Redoubt bellows steam and ash, seen from across the Cook Inlet in Ninilchik, Thursday, March 29, 2009.
Redoubt steams at sunset, on April 20, 2009, as viewed from Soldotna, Alaska.
The tanker Seabulk Arctic at berth at the Christy Lee loading platform. Mt. Redoubt volcano is shown in the background on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
Erin McKittrick collects an ash sample for the Alaska Volcano Observatory Saturday April 4, 2009 near Seldovia. Redoubt erupted Saturday morning around 6 AM and threw an ash and gas cloud up to around 50,000 feet in the air. The ash cloud moved over Cook Inlet and the western Kenai Peninsula. A thick blanket of ash fell in Homer and Seldovia along with other Kenai Peninsula communities.
View east of Redoubt Volcano and recent eruption deposits on the upper flanks on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.
Vehicles parked near the Delaney Park Strip in downtown Anchorage have their hoods covered to help protect against volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
A view northeast over the piedmont lobe of the Drift Glacier and down the Drift River valley shows the effects of flooding caused by two eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano earlier in the day Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Annotated webcam image from April 20, 2009, showing approximate height of the waterfall, and a corresponding bar for how high the Empire State Building would look next to the waterfall. These measurements are approximate and are only intended as a sense of scale - it is not possible to accurately measure the height of the dome from these webcam images. The April 20, 2009, debris flow is visible just to the left of the yellow bars. AVO gives special thanks to Marc Linsey, for his help in the creation of this figure.
Mount Redoubt as seen from 16,000 feet on a scheduled Iliamna Air flight April 6, 2009. The plume was drifting northeast toward Anchorage between 20,000 and 25,000 feet at about 30 knots.
One of Redoubt's webcams shows a clearing mountain with a small plume. The image was made at 3:35 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The camera is located with a seismic station, approximately 7.6 miles NE of Redoubt.
Redoubt Volcano and eruption plume on March 31, 2009. View is to the northeast of the summit area and south rim of the crater.
Steam and ash rises from Mount Redoubt on Monday afternoon, March 30, 2009.
AVO Redoubt Hut Cam
Mount Redoubt volcano is viewed from the south over the ash-covered Crescent River Valley Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Mount Redoubt releases a plume of water vapor and gas, April 17, 2009 50 miles across Cook Inlet from Kenai, Alaska.
Redoubt volcano pumps out steam and ash in the sunset light Sunday evening, viewed from Anchorage. April 5, 2009
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
One of Redoubt's webcams shows a clearing mountain with a small plume. The image was made at 1:45 PM Saturday April 4, 2009. The camera is located with a seismic station, approximately 7.6 miles NE of Redoubt.
View west of the east flank of Redoubt Volcano and ash-covered terrain from recent eruptions on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.
Volcanic ash from Mount Redoubt rests on the hood of a pickup truck parked south of Wasilla on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
Image grab from Redoubt Hut webcam on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 9:11 am.
A waterfall is viewed at the 5500' level of Drift Canyon following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
This April 20, 2009 photo shows traffic moving along Glenn Highway in Anchorage, Alaska, as Mount Redoubt, bellows steam and gas on the horizon. The volcano, about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage on the west side of Cook Inlet began erupting March 22, 2009. According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory the volcano continues to erupt and a lava dome is building.
Photograph of Redoubt volcano taken during an observation and gas collection overflight on Sunday, April 5, 2009.
Ashfall from Redoubt's ~6 am explosive event, April 4, 2009, covered a vehicle near Homer, AK.
Image grab of Redoubt Volcano from the AVO's Redoubt Hut webcam at 8:53am on Wednesday, April 1, 2009.
Tire tracks in the snow with a light dusting of ash from Saturday's eruption of Mount Redoubt as seen at Point Woronzof on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
View of the growing Redoubt volcano lava dome on May 4, 2009. Note the tongue of blocky lava extending down the upper Drift gorge. A lighter gray slope of talus - rocky debris shed off the slowly advancing tongue of lava - fills the gorge downslope. The dimensions of the dome are about 510 x 760 m (1700 feet x 2500 feet) and at least 150 m (500 feet) high. Scientisits say another explosion is imminent.
This is the lower portion of the Drift Canyon. Visible is the central ice gorge down which flood waters travelled (waterfall and plunge pool in lower center); flow entering from left side of canyon is presumably from a runout generated by small pyroclastic flow (seen in webcam on 03/23/09). Observations made following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
Mount Redoubt from the east on April 16, 2009. The volcano continues to spew steam.
Redoubt volcano as seen from an ERA flight between Anchorage and Kodiak on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Redoubt Volcano's Saturday morning eruption sent a large ash cloud to the Kenai Peninsula. Between 8 and 8:30 am Saturday morning, as the ash fell in Homer, it looked as dark as night although it was daylight hours.
Redoubt volcano and eruption plume on March 31, 2009. View is to the west. Note ash covered slopes in foreground.
Bird tracks in snow with a light dusting of volcanic ash from Saturday's eruption of Mount Redoubt as seen near Point Woronzof on Sunday, March 29, 2009.
USGS/AVO geologist Kristi Wallace, pondering the preserved tephra layers in the snow northwest of Redoubt volcano during fieldwork on Monday, May 4, 2009.
Mount Redoubt bellows steam and ash, seen from across the Cook Inlet in Ninilchik, Thursday, March 29, 2009.
Redoubt continues to steam on April 20, 2009. Photograph was made by Robert Cole, a Peninsula Airways pilot.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009. View from the northeast across the Drift River.
Ashfall from Saturday April 4, 2009 6:00AM eruption of Mount Redoubt blankets Homer's Pioneer Avenue.
Steam and ash streams out of Mount Redoubt volcano on Tuesday March 31, 2009. Photos made by Iliamna Air Taxi pilot Nick Oppegard around 11:30 am on Tuesday on his way from Anchorage to Iliamna on a s scheduled flight at 16,000 feet.
Ben Tesfu brings shopping carts in from the parking lot at the Carrs Safeway Aurora Village store while wearing a protective mask as ash from Mount Redoubt volcano falls on Anchorage Saturday evening March 28, 2009.
Rick Wessels examines ice-rich lahar deposits from Redoubt volcano on Thursday, April 30, 2009. The deposits are from the flood in March and are rapidly evolving as subsequent floods and warm weather work on them. This location is on the south side of the lower Drift River Valley. The deposit is capped by sand deposits from the April 4, 2009 flood.
This view is of the ash-covered lower Crescent River Valley following two morning eruptions of Mount Redoubt volcano Thursday March 26, 2009.
Photo courtesy Game McGimsey / A.V.O. / U.S.G.S.
The lava dome on Redoubt Volcano is active lava dome. The photograph of the top of the mountain was taken from the north by AVO's Game McGimsey. The bottom image shows the thermal image - the darker colors represent cool / cold material and as the colors get lighter, they represent the progressively hotter material - the white being the hottest. The thermal image is by Rick Wessels. The images were made on April 16, 2009.
Photo of Redoubt volcano and vicinity taken from an observation flight on Saturday, April 4, 2009.
Jeff Rogers, right, of Alyeska Sales and Service in Homer gives a quick lesson on automobile air-filter changing to Ashleigh Imlay, left, and Diana Imlay. Unable to catch a flight to Anchorage this morning due to Mount Redoubt's 6 a.m. eruption, the women were preparing to make the drive north.
Image grab from the AVO website of Mt. Redoubt Volcano at 8:20am on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 as sunrise hits the volcano. AVO Redoubt Hut webcam is located approximately 7.5 mi (12 km) from Redoubt's summit crater.

1 p.m. Friday update: The Alaska Volcano Observatory lowered its Redoubt volcano alert level to orange and "watch" from red and "warning" late this morning after three days passed without a major explosion.

In its most recent advisory, issued at 11:44 a.m., the observatory said the intensity of Redoubt's activity has declined over the last few days even as it remains in an active eruption phase "characterized by continuous emission of steam, volcanic gas and variable amounts of ash."

5 a.m. Friday update: There have been no significant changes at Mount Redoubt overnight. Small earthquakes continue on the mountain at the rate of three to four per minute, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. No ash advisories are in effect. The alert status of the volcano remains "red/warning."

With storage space for Cook Inlet oil running critically low and Redoubt volcano continuing to rumble upstream from an active tank farm, officials said they have given a tentative OK for a ship to take on 6.3 million gallons from the Drift River oil terminal. At a news conference Thursday, Coast Guard Capt. Mark Hamilton said the Seabulk Alaska will dock Saturday at the Christy Lee platform, the offshore loading facility for the Drift River terminal. The oil will come from the 6 million gallons already stored there and from oil piped from facilities at Trading Bay and Granite Point.

When it's finished loading two days later, about 840,000 gallons of crude will be left in each of two active tanks at Drift River, a facility built 42 years ago downriver from Redoubt volcano. That's the minimum that can be safely and economically left there, Hamilton and other officials said.

The terminal, an essential component of the Cook Inlet oil-production system, has been the single most affected industrial site in the current eruption cycle of Redoubt, now nearing the end of its second week. Gary Folley of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said officials remain concerned about the risk of a massive oil spill into Cook Inlet, but reducing the amount stored there to about a fourth of the current amount is a big improvement, he said.

The tank farm was built in the floodplain of the Drift River, which is fed by glaciers and icefields flanking the volcano 22 miles away. Eruptions and flows of hot gases, mud and rock can quickly melt massive amounts of ice, sending flash floods down the river. A dike has so far sheltered the tank farm, but officials don't fully trust it even though it has weathered several flash floods in recent days without damage.

The volcano continues to simmer, said Chris Waythomas, a scientist with the observatory. The last major explosion was Tuesday, but it continues to eject a steady if small stream of ash and dust into the atmosphere, creating a light haze over the Cook Inlet region.

Rhythmic seismic tracks confirmed by visual sightings show the volcano is building a dome from lava hardening at the surface of its crater, Waythomas said. The dome is hot, more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

Domes are typical of an eruption cycle at Redoubt and other volcanoes like it, he said.

What's also typical is that domes become unstable and break apart, sometimes accompanied by an explosive release of ash into the atmosphere, Waythomas said. The debris falls rapidly down the flanks of the volcano, sucking hot gases and ash with it. When the material hits an icefield or glacier, the melting is immediate and dramatic -- hence the concern at the Drift River terminal, about a two- to three-hour journey for a wall of floodwater.

After it collapses, the dome can be expected to build again. The situation can go on for months, Waythomas warned. In the mid-1960s, it went on for years at Redoubt.

OIL TRANSFERS HALTED

The Drift River terminal was evacuated after the current eruption cycle began March 22. That put a halt to oil transfers to Drift River from intermediate facilities at Trading Bay and Granite Point. Those facilities are near capacity, Hamilton said, and some platforms have already been forced to shut down.

Hamilton, the federal on-scene coordinator for the region and one of three representatives in the unified command dealing with the oil-spill threat from Drift River, said officials are taking into consideration the impact of a shutdown on the economy of the region. But he said the transfer will only begin Saturday if it can be done safely.

Oil in the Drift River tanks will have to fall and rise during the loading operation to accommodate the pumping equipment and pipelines, but will never be allowed to rise above the current level of 3.1 million gallons in each tank, he said.

Crews will have to be on hand at the terminal and platform to perform the operations. Pumps and the terminal's power plant appear to be operating normally, and the pipelines connecting it with the other facilities and the offshore shipping dock will be tested before loading operations begin, said Hamilton and Rod Ficken, vice president of Cook Inlet Pipeline Co., which owns the facility.

Among the extraordinary safety precautions that will be put in place Saturday: a National Weather Service official will be assigned to closely monitor conditions in the immediate vicinity of the loading dock, a mile off shore.

Ficken said his first concern is for the safety of crews who will run the pumping operation. In the event of a sudden eruption or dome collapse, the crew can shut down operations in an hour or less. If they can't make an escape in a helicopter, there's an emergency shelter at the site capable of withstanding flood and ash, he said.

Hamilton and Folley said enough oil spill containment and clean-up equipment is on hand or nearby to deal with a likely spill.

Once the tanker leaves with its load, officials will then go to work to figure out what to do next. Normally, a tanker calls on Drift River about every 30 days to take oil to the Tesoro refinery in Nikiski, Ficken said.

Representatives of the Coast Guard, the DEC and Cook Inlet Pipeline Co., operating as a unified command for Drift River, announced a community meeting for Kenai Peninsula residents on April 7 to discuss the oil terminal. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai and will be hosted by the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.

Find Richard Mauer online at adn.com/contact/rmauer or call 257-4345.

More volcano coverage
By RICHARD MAUER
rmauer@adn.com