Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Waiting for Redoubt and remembering Mt. Spurr

For three days the Anchorage Daily News has been reporting that one of our local volcanoes, Mt. Redoubt, is getting restless. Here's the latest info, both from ADN and The Alaska Volcano Observatory.

If she blows it won't be my first experience with volcanic activity. Mt. Spurr, the closest volcano to Anchorage, erupted three times in summer 1992.

It's been nearly 17 years since Mt. Spurr last erupted. During the first eruption, June 27, my parents were visiting. We were eating a meal in Talkeetna when the news was announced. How exciting! My parents might not have seen many moose on that particular trip, but they would get to be part of a volcanic eruption! How often do you get to return home from vacation and share that tale? However, the ash cloud went far to the west and bypassed most populated areas and we didn't actually witness any of it. The second eruption is a different story.

I was at a gathering on August 18 when the second eruption was announced with a warning that an ash cloud was headed directly towards Anchorage. A few of us jumped in the car and headed towards an area that overlooks Cook Inlet and Mt. Spurr. We watched as the ash cloud advanced towards us. It was very ominous to behold the large dark cloud slowly swallowing the sky and turning day to night. A few minutes after we returned to the party, ash began falling like sandy snow.

The folks back at the party had been watching the news and learned that we needed to protect our car engines from ash damage, prior to driving home. This is done by placing pantyhose over the car's air intake. A group of us sprang into action. Our hostess donated a large bag of her pantyhose to the cause and we proceeded to "ash proof" our cars. It was black as night with sandy ash raining down on our heads, making a sound like sleet as it landed. One of the men put some stockings on his head. This proved to be a fantastic bit of foresight on his part as the gritty particles are almost impossible to wash from your hair and I had "gritty scalp" for at least a week.

The drive home that evening had a "post apocalyptic" feel to it. Curiosity seekers were out walking with dust masks or scarves over their faces. People were still on the road, checking out the scene; we even passed one guy riding his motorcycle in the ash cloud! It was so strange for it to be pitch black so early on a summer evening, as we still have daylight until nearly 11pm in late August. It was a very surreal scene that just felt "wrong" somehow.

When we awoke the next morning, the ash fall had stopped and skies were again clear. There was 1/8 inch of ash covering everything. The gardens had to be hosed clean and sidewalks swept. Street sweepers worked around the clock but the ash persisted for weeks, stirred up by traffic on the roads. Finally the dependable fall rains came and cleaned things up and by October the ash was forgotten under winter snows.

The next summer things were greener than usual due to the fertilizing nutrients in the ash. I guess even Mother Nature's clouds of wrath have a silver lining.

Monday, January 26, 2009

On watching the sun come back and expose a winter's worth of hidden grime.

It's always fun this time of year watching the sun climb higher and higher in the sky each day. By this time of the year we are a little more than one month past winter solstice and have been gaining an increasing amount of light each day. The daily gains start small, but then gain momentum as we pull away from the winter solstice. By the third week in January one can actually see that the sun is shining higher in the sky and that sunrise and sunset are occurring earlier and later each day.

At my house the sun was high enough in the sky this morning to actually shine through a window that has not seen sun since early November. Note to self: clean that window, right away!

On that note, there is a downside to the sun returning to long forgotten corners of your house. Corners that haven't been illuminated by strong natural light in nearly 3 months now don't seem as clean as one thought they were! As the sun begins to brighten other dark corners of our dwellings in the coming weeks and months "spring" cleaning will become a necessity as the sun shines it's brutal light into what appeared to be clean areas back in December. In my home, while the carpet might have appeared to be clean and not in need of a thorough steaming in December, it certainly is beginning to appear more and more questionable in the higher light.

Good thing the holiday season is in the darkest part of the year as one can entertain company without said company noticing just how cruddy your house really is! Once the full-strength sun of summer rolls around, most entertaining happens outdoors (thank goodness), thus reducing the chances of someone actually seeing how your house looks in the full light of an Alaska summer day.

Unless you have outdoor "facilities" or your summer guests choose to relieve themselves outdoors, one still must keep a "corridor of cleanliness" leading to the closest indoor restroom. The other option, steamclean your home, one dirty bit at a time as the ever climbing sun reveals these "problem areas" to you each day. The inherent problem with spring-cleaning is really in the two words themselves: spring and cleaning. Who in Alaska really wants to spend even a single spring day cleaning house? As soon as Mr. Sun begins coming back to town the urge is not to nest but to leave our dusty dwelling and spend more time outdoors. Who cares if it's cold, it's sunny and your body wants to get out there and soak it up!

Regardless of the sun's cruel, daily exposure of winter's lapsed daily cleaning, I still welcome it back with open arms!

For those of you that like to follow the sun, here is a nice website. It can bring hope to those that suffer from the winter blues. It’s nice to be able to watch the little line creep up towards the summer solstice line. Yeah, there’s the flip side too; watching the little line creep towards the winter solstice line, but after a long and well lived summer, it can be a relief to head into the quieter times of winter. I’ll have more on that in September.

Note: you can look up many other locations worldwide from the Gaisma website. Have fun tracking the sun!

Monday, January 12, 2009

So, Monday January 12, 2009. I have been perusing all of my favorite Alaska political blogs and in between sneaking peaks at who wore what, who said what and who won what awards at last night's Golden Globes. Warmth has again graced this little corner of the world and temps are at 10 degrees ABOVE and supposedly rising. Forecasters are calling for RAIN on Wednesday...hmmm, didn't really need for it to get that warm and ruin all of the fabulous ski trails that have been set at various parks in the area, but hey, I guess we take it as it comes. The dogs are definitely enjoying this warmer climate as are the ducks. My two male ducks were trying to swim in their bucket at -20 and one of them at some point became stuck to the side of the water bucket and lost a good sized patch of feathers. I put a board over all but a small portion of the bucket so that they would be able to drink but not swim. Swimming is not a recommended recreationally activity at -20 degrees, but I see the wild ducks doing it all of the time in various open water areas in the Valley. At any rate, for now this blog will be for family and friends and I'll post favorite links in case any of them would like to visit these recommended sites.

I'm testing posting the urls now so I'll have to update later....

below is a test done by my husband Benton, computer geek extraordinaire, figuring out how to embed urls and other things into my blog. I'm leaving it for future reference for myself as it has some coding in it I may need to be reminded of one day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First post from my new blog. Just testing to make certain that all is in order. Warming up here in Wasilla. From -15 this morning at 8am to 2 above at 3:20pm.