Blizzard + Volcano = Just another week in Alaska

It’s been a crazy week here in the 49th state. Monday, Mt. Redoubt finally erupted, and spewed an ash cloud over the area north of itself (Redoubt is north/northwest of us). Our boss was supposed to fly back from the Iditarod finish in Nome that day, but her flight was canceled due to the ash cloud. For some reason, the power went out shortly after the eruption, and stayed off for a few hours.

Monday night, we had high winds that drifted in our driveway, trapping me here at home for most of the day Tuesday.

I managed to make into town Wednesday morning, though it was already blowing snow when I left. While there, I received a call from the boss, who had made it to Anchorage and was boarding a flight to Homer. I went to the airport to pick her up, and watched as the pilot circled a few times in the high wind and heavy snow, contemplated the odds of crashing while landing, decided they were not in his/her favor, and then headed back to Anchorage.

By the time I returned home, I could barely see the road, and spent the last 5 miles of the drive crawling along between lulls in the wind, when the whiteout would relent for a few seconds. Skippy had gone home ahead of me, and was bearing the brunt of the storm while trying to feed the dogs and rescue the lids to their houses that the wind had blown off (yes, it was that strong!). She faced down the storm and beat it, even after being knocked flat several times by gusts of wind and flying dog house lids.

I arrived in time to help assemble kennels and move all the ice-encrusted old dogs inside. I also took some video of the storm, for your edutainment.

Here’s what it was like outside, though the wind had died down a bit by this point. As I pan to the dog yard, you might notice the blue poop sled flying in the breeze:

I moved inside, fearing for my camera’s well-being:

And this one is looking out the east window of the cabin. Don’t you just want to run outside and play?

This morning broke calm and clear. As is typical after a snow storm, we found that most of our paths had been drifted over, making walking anywhere a chore until we get them packed down again. Also, this is our driveway.

This was a driveway

The drift was over 5′ high in places, leaving a narrow path to walk through. I sent the boss’s dog Bean down through it so I could at least get some perspective shots.

Drifted Drive

Also, check out the new rims Mother Nature gave Skippy’s truck:


It took most of the morning to dig out the dog houses and pull out whatever snow had blown into them. While we were out working, the plow arrived and started digging us out. The first couple of snows we had, back in October and November, the plow company sent a standard 4×4 pickup with a blade attached to the front. Now, in the depths of winter and snow banks on either side of the road that are 7’+ high, they bring something more substantial.

Mr. Plow, Alaska style

Around 10:30am, as I was preparing to go pick up the boss from the airport, a friend called and told me Redoubt had erupted again, and this time the ash was headed our way. Sure enough, the volcano had erupted and sent an ash cloud 65,000′ into the air. Had it been clear to the north of us, we probably would have been able to see it, but of course it was overcast at that point.

The boss’s flight was once again canceled, and we’re beginning to think she’ll have to build a house in Anchorage because she’s never going to get back here. We prepared for the coming rain of volcanic debris: gathering fresh water for the dogs and ourselves if the power went out again, moving the old dogs back inside, and making sure doors and windows were shut tight.

We finished up as the first flakes of ash began to fall, and celebrated by taking a 3 hour nap. When we woke up, the blinding whiteness that had surrounded us for the past 5 months was turned into a dirty gray, like those piles of plowed snow in mall parking lots.

Volcanic ash

Dirty snow

We fed the dogs with filter masks on, since the wind was blowing again, and I don’t fancy having volcanic glass in my lungs. I also wore my glasses, since microscopic ash on contact lenses can scratch the cornea, and I don’t want that either. Of course, breathing into the mask meant my glasses kept fogging up, so I eventually just took them off and worked in my nearsighted blur.

Here’s a special message, written in volcanic ash:

Now the volcano is sending out seismic pulses every couple of minutes, and I wonder if it’s going to blow again.

So, at least it isn’t boring around here.

6 thoughts on “Blizzard + Volcano = Just another week in Alaska

  1. skippy

    you forgot to mention the part where I lost a contact. Oh, and two 16-year old dogs in the snow storm from hell because SOMEONE forgot to latch their pen gate properly. Oh wait, forgot to latch their pen AT ALL. I still love that someone, even if his carelessness caused me more stress and anguish than I thought possible. We will never speak of this again. Ha!

  2. Ryan

    Oh yeah…that. Of course the one time I forget to latch the pen is the worst snow storm of the year. At least they didn’t wander far, and got in Underdog and Beauty’s houses to await rescue…

  3. Yikes ya’ll.

  4. Tim

    Rock on Ryan. This stuff is cool to see. Try not to get lava on you!

  5. Glenn B.
  6. Laura

    Whoa! Holy smokes!! (All puns intended.) Miss you both!!

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