As Alaska's Redoubt simmers, concern for oil storage tanks

Anchorage Daily NewsApril 2, 2009 

Alaska's Mount Redoubt continued blowing gas, steam and ash Wednesday as officials worked on plans to forestall risks to oil storage tanks at the Drift River terminal, located in the volcano's shadow.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported continuing weak volcanic tremors and with occasional small earthquakes taking place on the stratovolcano about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage.

A continuous ash plume reaching about 14,000 feet above sea level was being pushed by easterly winds that shifted in the afternoon. No ashfall alerts were in effect, with most of the fallout taking place near the volcano. But air service in and out of Anchorage was disrupted, with FedEx and UPS reouting cargo traffic and passenger airlines watching day-to-day for developments.

Scientists say the volcano could continue smoldering for days or weeks before settling down. A dome appears to be forming from cooling lava in Redoubt's crater and scientists were continuing to warn explosive activity could continue.

"I would imagine we'll get some further large event," said geophysicist and field engineer Cyrus Read. The most likely, he said, would be a collpase of the dome, which would send debris exploding into the air.

Concern for the Drift River oil terminal remained high. There are 6 million gallons of oil currently stored in the river's floodplain, and four workers were on site Wednesday clearing up mud and debris, paving the way for larger crews to arrive, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis said.

An eruption last week sent a mudslide crashing toward the tanks, but a $20 million dike installed at the terminal after Redoubt's last eruption in 1989 has so far held steady in protecting the tanks and their contents from disaster.

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