ANATAHAN ASH CLOUD NEARS OKINAWA

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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 9) – Volcanic ash from Anatahan volcano in the Northern Marianas, movingo in a thin cloud up to 12,000 feet, may end up south of Okinawa, according to the Emergency Management Office and the U.S. Geological Survey.

EMO and USGS’ latest update on Anatahan on Saturday stated that the ash plume from the volcano rose to only 8,000 feet near the island.

"A detached cloud of thinner ash to 15,000 feet also exists northeast of the island and a possible thin cloud of ash to 12,000 feet may reside south of Okinawa," EMO and USGS said.

Anatahan’s harmonic tremor dropped back to a fairly low level on Saturday, after surging to a moderately high level on Friday. A few small long-period earthquakes were also recorded.

EMO canceled on Friday morning the volcanic ash advisory for Saipan and Tinian, after latest satellite imagery indicates that the thin dust and gas that was headed toward Saipan and Tinian on Thursday weakened and moved west of the islands.

"Any increase in northerly winds in the levels between 10,000 and 20,000 feet or increase in volcanic activity may again require reissue of this advisory," said EMO.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta, in the advisory, said that although the volcanic dust and gas has moved westerly direction away from Saipan and Tinian, mariners should avoid the Anatahan area due to continuous volcanic activities.

Anatahan first erupted on May 10, 2003. Its largest eruption occurred on April 6, 2005, when Anatahan expelled roughly 50 million cubic meters of ash. The eruption column reached about 50,000 feet. The thick volcanic ash and haze also darkened the skies over Saipan and Tinian, which caused fear and confusion among residents.

May 9, 2005

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