Prep for the Ashfall: An Answer to Soph

Mt. ReDoubt is still Code Orange, with most of the scientists saying that we should expect a repeat of the 1989-90 performance. So, how does one prepare for a volcanic eruption?

Volcanic ash is very fine (less than 10 microns), and very gritty. It is crystalline in structure, and will scratch most surfaces. The ash can infiltrate all but the most tightly sealed buildings, and can destroy the electronics in a home. Volcanic ash is also slippery, and quite heavy. A one-inch layer of ash weighs about ten pounds per square foot. Too much of it will bring a roof down, and it is advised that roofs be cleared before more than a few inches have accumulated.

In preparing for an eruption, one should stock respirators in the home and car, extra food and water for at least 72 hours, cleaning supplies, and plenty of plastic to wrap TV’s, computers, cameras, and anything else electronic. I'm prepared to wrap the furniture as well.

During an ashfall, one should close windows, doors, and dampers, and attempt to eliminate all draft sources. Wet towels should be placed at door thresholds. If possible, a visqueen pre-entry should be constructed to help prevent, or cut down on infiltration. Burning wood stoves and fireplaces should be avoided, as well as running exhaust fans or clothes dryers. Furnaces should be run on an intermittent schedule to prevent clogging the filter.

People should stay indoors if possible. Driving should be avoided, and if a person must drive, they should take the extra precaution of covering the air filter with pantyhose, or similar material, as ash can quickly clog the air filter and stall a car. If possible, all machinery should be shut down and sealed.

If an eruption occurs during school hours, it is probable that we will have to remain there until things have cleared a bit. Schools will most likely close if an eruption occurs during off hours. Evacuation from Homer is not likely. Heavy ashfall will close the airport, and driving the distance to Kenai (90 miles), or Anchorage (225 miles), will most likely prove impossible. Depending on the prevailing winds, the ashfall may prove worse in either of those locations.

The best we can do is to prepare the Perch for “just in case.” Abandoning the Perch is unlikely, as it may be our only haven. In the event of an eruption, we will have to look out for each other, and wait things out.