Science

Air Travel Alert: Alaska Volcano Pavlof Eruption Spotted By ISS

By Randell Suba , May 24, 2013 08:51 AM EDT

Astronauts on duty at the International Space Station captured images of the Pavlof Volcano that began throwing tantrums on May 18. The volcanic activity has prompted authorities to suspend regional flights coming in and out of nearby communities earlier this week.

The Pavlof Volcano, located on the Aleutian Islands roughly 625 miles from Anchorage, ejected ash plumes reaching approximately 22,000 feet during the weekend. According to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, the lava from the 8,621-foot high volcano also created clouds of steam as the flow rushed down the snow covering its surface.

A report on Reuters detailed that the ash from Pavlof was too low to affect international flights that cruise at 30,000 feet between North America and Asia. The volcanic activity posted problems for regional flights that serve villages and fishing towns that do not have road access.

PenAir, an airline company headquartered in Anchorage, suspended its flights Monday to four of its usual destinations in southwestern Alaska including flights to and from Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, a port that handles big volumes for U.S. consumers.

"We've had about a dozen cancellations due to the volcano,"  said PenAir CEO Danny Seybert.

As of Wednesday, flights have been resumed to Unalaska, Cold Bay, and Sand Point since the ash levels went down to roughly 10,000 feet.

"Between all the communities, we had about 300 people waiting to go one direction or another. By the end of Wednesday we should have everyone going where they want to go," Seybert said in an interview with KDLG, a public radio station in Alaska.

The prayers of the top executive of PenAir were answered as winds blew east and brought the volcanic ash in just one direction allowing the airline company to resume all flights.

Grounded residents in Cold Bay, just 40 miles from the Pavlof Volcano were also able to travel to King Cove, False Pass, Nelson Lagoon, and Port Moller.

According to Alaska Volcano Observatory, the volcano is still erupting but its seismic activities are not as constant anymore, a clear sign that it is calming down. The agency's data still show hot surface temperatures and small explosions.

The last major eruption of Pavlof was back in 2007. Its history reveals 24 eruptions between 1901 through 2007.

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