May 22, 2006 – Ash from the Soufrierre Hills volcano on Montserrat is blanketing St. Thomas and St. John, National Weather Service meteorologist Walter Snell said around 1 p.m. Tuesday from San Juan.
Snell said he didn't know for sure when the ash would leave the territory, but said the wind direction should change by Thursday, which could mean the ash would travel in another direction.
He said St. Croix wasn't seeing much of a problem since it was just at the fringes of the airborne ash, which started spewing into the air when a dome collapsed on the volcano Saturday.
Snell said that initially, the ash blew to the southwest, but a change in wind direction sent it toward the Virgin Islands by Monday.
Snell said that moisture in the air is "glomming on" to the ash, making it sticky and hard to remove.
The ash greatly reduced visibility in the area. From Coral Bay, St. John, Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands was only a shadow on the horizon, when normally buildings sitting on the island's ridge can be seen without binoculars. Snell said Peter Island was about eight miles away.
Normally, the BVI chain of islands all the way to Virgin Gorda is visible from Coral Bay. That island sits about 18 miles from Coral Bay.
The Associated Press reported that ash in the air halted international flights from Venezuela on Sunday.
V.I. Port Authority spokeswoman Carol Henneman said Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas had not closed.
Snell said he saw pictures of vehicles in Montserrat with their windows broken by rocks spewing out of the volcano.
A press release on the Montserrat Volcano Observatory's Web site indicated that small stones accompanied the ash. The press release also indicated that the scientists at the observatory were concerned about tsunamis caused by "pyroclastic flows" into the sea.
The press release indicated that all residents were safe.
It said the dome began growing in August 2005. The volcano began its eruptions in 1995 after rumbling for the three previous years. By 1997, its eruptions sent ash over half Montserrat. This forced the closure of the island's capital, Plymouth, and killed 19 people.
It forced the relocation of what residents remained to the island's northern portion or to other off-island locations. About 5,000 out of the 12,000 residents remain.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.