Monserrat Volcano Sends Ash to Virgin Islands

July 29, 2008 — Ash from a partially collapsed dome on the west side of Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano covered cars on St. Thomas Tuesday and clouded skies on St. Croix.
"We're still on the back edge of the cloud," said Ernesto Morales, National Weather Service meteorologist, speaking from San Juan late Tuesday afternoon.
Residents in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay, St. John, reported no discernible ash. That was because the island didn't get much rain, Morales said.
Rain pushes the ash down from the atmosphere, he said. The eruption, which happened at 11:27 p.m. Monday, blew ash up to 40,000 feet. It remained trapped at 6,000 to 21,000 feet until the rain began to fall.
"There was a downpour between 9 and 10 a.m." on St. Thomas, said Dr. Audria Thomas of the Health Department.
The dome partially collapsed because Montserrat experienced an earthquake, one of several that started Saturday.
"The earthquake broke the dome," Morales said.
According to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory website, scientists observed some explosions from the dome. Lava flows reached the former capitol of Plymouth, as well as the sea.
Thomas, who handles respiratory issues for the Health Department, raised the alert for people with asthma, emphysema or allergies, because particles in the air can cause irritation for anyone with respiratory problems. Such patients should wear a face mask if they have to go out, but are better off staying inside, Thomas said.
The ash can also irritate skin.
The ash in the air caused cancellation of American Airline's two daily flights from Miami to St. Thomas and an American Eagle flight between St. Thomas and San Juan. Because the flights didn't arrive from Miami, there were no planes on St. Thomas to fly from St. Thomas to Miami, said American spokesman Minette Velez.
The Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting July 18, 1995.
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