The volcanic ash cloud that’s shut down flights throughout Alaska over the last three days may linger over Southeast this weekend.
Nate Eckstein is the science operations officer at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Anchorage. He says that on Thursday they were optimistic that the ash cloud would move off into Western Canada, but now it looks like the cloud could be sticking around for a bit longer.
“Now it looks like it’s caught in this trough, this weather system over the Gulf. It’s going to continue to track east today, but then turn back to the north, and that will put it back towards the Sitka area and Southeast Alaska in general, probably tonight,” Eckstein says. “And so we do think that it’ll be moving overhead of Southeast Alaska through Saturday.”
As of mid-day Friday, there wasn’t any ash lingering over Sitka. The main cloud system was south of the Gulf of Alaska moving east and a second was north of Yakutat, with other ash areas reported near Juneau moving north into Canada.
Eckstein says that the updated forecast means flight disruptions could continue into Saturday in Southeast. But the risk the ash cloud poses does decrease as time goes on and the cloud dissipates and weakens.
“It’s possible that even though this feature is moving, kind of, back to the north, into the eastern gulf, that it’s gonna continue to dissipate. And so that ash signal may may weaken to a point where the hazard ends. But it looks like maybe it’s staying together a little bit longer. And so we may continue to deal with this for another day, or more.”
As of Friday, Alaska Airlines had canceled nearly 100 flights throughout the state.