HOMER, Alaska – Snowflakes laced with fine, gray ash fell on communities south of Anchorage as a series of volcanic eruptions continued early Saturday on an uninhabited island dozens of miles away.
Plumes of ash from the volcano drifted across Cook Inlet and into Homer, 75 miles to the northeast, halting air travel and closing schools in some Kenai Peninsula communities Friday.
In Seldovia, 15 miles north of Homer, city manager Kurt Reynertson noticed a fine dusting of ash on cars, but he said "That's the only way I was able to pick up that there was ash falling."
The 4,134-foot Augustine Volcano began erupting Wednesday after a 20-year lull. By Saturday morning, it had erupted at least eight time, and scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory said they expect more eruptions over the next several days or weeks.
"I see no reason they would stop," said Stephanie Prejean, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The National Weather Service warned about 16,000 residents of the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island to the south about the ash cloud, which could pose a health risk, especially for people with respiratory problems.
Alaska Airlines also canceled 28 flight into Anchorage and Fairbanks on Friday and early Saturday as a safety precaution. Ash can damage the engines of aircraft and vehicles on the ground.
Charlie Franz, chief executive officer of South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, said his staff was putting extra filters in the hospital's air handling system.
"Just don't go out if you don't have to," he said. "I think that's probably the best advice people can get.