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Originally published Monday, May 20, 2013 at 7:36 PM

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Alaska volcano’s ash prompts flight cancellations

Eruption of the Pavlof volcano in Alaska is disrupting schedules of regional airlines.

The Associated Press

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ANCHORAGE — An Alaska volcano eruption is prompting regional airlines to cancel flights to nearby communities, including a town that reported traces of fallen ash.

The Mount Pavlof volcano released ash plumes as high as 22,000 feet over the weekend, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Clouds obscured the volcano Monday, but U.S. Geological Survey scientists said seismic instruments at the volcano show continuing tremors.

“Seismically, it’s been pretty steady over the last 12 hours,” geologist Chris Waythomas said Monday.

The abrasive ash has not risen enough to threaten international air traffic passing over the volcano-rich Aleutian arc, Waythomas said. Ash emissions have gone high enough, however, to affect flights of some smaller planes.

Anchorage-based regional carrier Penair has canceled a dozen passenger and cargo flights to several remote communities since Sunday afternoon. The communities include Sand Point, which reported a dusting of ash Sunday.

Penair CEO Danny Seybert said for those flying in the region, flight disruptions are part of doing business. It’s not unusual for the airline to cancel flights a couple times each year because of volcanoes, according to Seybert. He said it’s no big deal, not a sky-is-falling crisis.

Ace Air Cargo, also based in Anchorage, canceled two flights and delayed others, but for the most part its planes are flying around any ash, said Greg Hawthorne, a company official. The airline is closely monitoring developments, he said.

Pavlof eruptions typically involve gas-rich fountains of lava that can shoot up to a few thousand feet. But its ash clouds are usually lower and less dense than the plumes of more explosive volcanoes that pose a greater hazard to aircraft, according to scientists. That’s not to say it couldn’t spew out much higher plumes, they said.

The volcano 625 miles southwest of Anchorage is among the most active volcanoes in the region, with nearly 40 known eruptions, according to the observatory.

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