Update for 6 p.m. PT March 29:
The massive ash cloud from Alaska’s Mount Pavlof has thinned out, two days after the volcano stirred to life, and airline service is getting back to normal.
Alaska Airlines said it had to cancel 41 flights on Monday and 28 more today, due to the strong winds that pushed ash from Mount Pavlof north. Thousands of passengers were affected by the cancellations, Alaska Airlines said in a travel advisory.
Flights to Barrow, Bethel, Kotzebue, Nome and Prudhoe Bay were suspended this morning, but as of 4 p.m. PT, the airline said it would operate the day’s remaining flights in and out of Fairbanks, Barrow and Prudhoe Bay.
“Due to changing weather conditions, the airline will continue to carefully assess the location and altitude of the ash,” the travel advisory said. “If flying conditions deteriorate and are deemed unsafe, additional flight cancellations are possible.”
Mount Pavlof, 600 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula, is one of the state’s most consistently active volcanoes. The 8,261-foot peak began erupting on Sunday afternoon, sending ash to heights in excess of 20,000 feet.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory received confirmed reports about traces of ashfall near Dillingham in southwest Alaska on Monday but said that “no significant ashfall” was expected going forward. The observatory’s volcano alert status has been lowered from Code Red (warning) to Code Orange (watch).
AVO’s scientists said there were only “intermittent low-level ash emissions” this morning. The National Weather Service said it had become difficult to detect ash in satellite imagery.
Ash poses significant safety concerns to aircraft on the ground and in the air, because it limits visibility and damages engines. “We simply won’t fly where ash is present,” said John Ladner, Alaska Airlines’ director of operations.
To check Alaska Airlines’ flight status, check AlaskaAir.com or call 1-800-ALASKA-AIR (1-800-252-7522).