Update: This story has been updated with a new article: Flight disruptions in Alaska could continue into the weekend as volcanic ash drifts from Russia
Dozens of flights to, from and within Alaska were canceled Thursday due to clouds of volcanic ash drifting from an eruption on Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.
The Shiveluch Volcano began erupting Tuesday, sending ash clouds more than 6 miles into the air. The eruption appeared to be easing Thursday, said Tim Orr of the Alaska Volcano Observatory.
The ash passed over the Aleutian Islands and across the Bering Sea, and on Thursday was largely concentrated in the Gulf of Alaska east of Kodiak Island, said Nate Eckstein of the Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Center.
Delays had been expected through the day, and the ash cloud caused Alaska Airlines to cancel 45 flights by Thursday evening, the airline said. Alaska Airlines didn’t expect flight cancellations for Friday, a spokesman for the company said, but that was dependent on the forecast.
“We continue to monitor the ash cloud, and depending on its location, movement and timing, we might need to cancel additional flights,” Alaska Airlines said in the statement.
BREAKING: An ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in Russia is impacting flights in the state of Alaska. As a safety precaution, @AlaskaAir has canceled some flights to and from Alaska and within the state. Guests can check the status of their flight at https://t.co/paAYVccsjy.— Alaska Airlines News (@AlaskaAirNews) April 13, 2023
Flights from other airlines arriving at or departing from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday also appeared to be canceled. Volcanic ash poses a danger to jets because it is abrasive and can cause engines to fail.
Alaska will not see any ashfall because all of the larger particles had already fallen before the cloud reached the state, Orr said.
Clouds of ash don’t usually travel as far as this one has, Eckstein said. The volcano is roughly 1,770 miles west of Anchorage.
The long, thin ash cloud on Thursday afternoon spread from south of Cold Bay and nearly reached Yakutat, Eckstein said. The largest concentration remained over the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak Island, but was expected to shift east and some parts could cover Canada by Friday, he said.
The cloud could cause further flight disruptions for Alaska on Friday, especially earlier in the day, if it continues to linger over the airspace, Eckstein said. It’s challenging to predict how the cloud will behave, he said, and there was still a possibility that it could fall apart overnight.
Eckstein said wind direction over the volcano was shifting Thursday so that further ash would be pushed over Russia and away from Alaska. But the ash could return to Alaska if the eruption continues, he said.