Lake Clark staff offer several free programs

By Shannon Reid

For the Homer News

On a clear day, the majestic volcanoes of Iliamna and Redoubt can be seen from Homer across Cook Inlet. 

Those views could lead visitors and newcomers to wonder: What would happen if one of the volcanoes blew?

Everyone is invited to learn the recent history of the mysterious and beautiful volcanoes, the events and hazards associated with eruptions, and post-eruption safety measures during the free presentation “Don’t Judge a Volcano by its Cover” offered by the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve at 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

In the 30-minute presentation, Molissa Udevitz, a second- year intern with Lake Clark National Park, compares Homer’s two volcano neighbors.

Standing at 10,016 feet, Iliamna isn’t the hot topic because it hasn’t blown in many years. On the other hand, 10,197-foot Redoubt has erupted in recent memory — most recently 19 times in March and April 2009. Many Homer residents recall the ash that accompanied that string of eruptions.

Udevitz was one of those affected by the ash when her family’s flight was delayed when flying from Seattle to Alaska.

“Because the two volcanoes are in a state park we don’t have to worry too much, and we can admire them from a distance,” said Udevitz.

But what happens if one of the volcanoes does blow?

Udevitz explained the different events linked to eruptions, and those that affect the immediate and surrounding areas.

One of the events is called a pyroclastic flow occurring when gases and debris escaping during an eruption travel down the flanks of the volcano at more than 100 miles per hour. The hot gases often lead to lahars, which are large flowing collections of rock, melted ice and snow and any other debris picked up along the way. 

During Redoubt’s eruptions in 2009, one of the lahars traveled more than 20 miles down the Drift River Valley and was recorded to be up to two miles wide and 19 feet deep in certain areas. 

According to Udevitz, while earthquakes may trigger volcanic eruptions, there isn’t enough evidence to determine the exact relationship between these two feats of nature.

Ash from eruptions can be shot more than the length equivalent of 37 football fields into the sky, according to Udevitz.

A handout provided during the presentation focused on ash and what to do during and after an ashfall. It says that a one-inch layer of ash weighs 10 pounds per square foot and warns that ash is extremely slippery.

Post-ashfall suggestions include changing the air filter on vehicles operated during ashfall and wearing a respirator during ash cleanup. 

The Alaska Volcano Observatory, a collaborative program of the United States Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, offers a volcano watch website that is updated daily and can be found at avo.alaska.edu.

In other programs at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, Lake Clark National Park’s Rebekah Jones presents a slideshow program entitled “Bear Viewing: Fun or Folly” at 1 p.m. every Thursday.

Other programs include:

• Guided estuary and slough walks at 11 a.m. daily;

• A slide show on World War II in the Aleutians at 3 p.m. every Saturday, Sunday and Monday:

• A program titled “Beasts of the Ocean: Marine Mammals” at 3 p.m. every Wednesday; and 

• A program titled “Sea Otters: Alaska’s Other Gold Rush” at 3 p.m. every Friday.

 For more information and a full schedule of activities, visit www.islandsandocean.org or call 235-6961.

Shannon Reid is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.

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