Monday, March 30, 2009

Volcanus Interruptus and other travel tales

I just got a note on Face Book from my friend Kristin--she finally made it to Alaska after being stranded in Portland for a week!
Kristin, who is a single missionary and lives in a remote village in AK, was in Oregon for a wedding and Greg and I met up with her at the airport last Monday to have dinner before she headed back to the Great Land. But Mt Redoubt, a surly volcano situated along Cook Inlet, started belching ashes into the sky and all flights to and from Anchorage were cancelled.

We lived in Anchorage when Redoubt last blew its top in 1989. I remember the airport being closed for days on end, putting panty hose over the intake valves of our suburban and the dire warnings on the TV and radio not to to anything outside (because of ash inhalation). The normally white landscape of winter changed to a gritty gray. So much ash piled up during the eruptions I wondered if the world would ever look clean again. I remember feeling trapped in my own house, amazed that something as minute as ash could wreak such havoc in our lives.

This clip from an article I read on Mt. Redoubt recently describes the power of volcanic ash:

On December 15, 1989, a Boeing 747 flying 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of Anchorage encountered an ash cloud erupted from Redoubt Volcano and lost power in all four jet engines. The plane, with 231 passengers aboard, lost more than 3,000 meters (~9,800 feet) of elevation before the flight crew was able to restart the engines (Casadevall, 1994). After landing, it was determined the airplane had suffered about $80 million in damage.

So, it's no wonder the flights were cancelled . . . but who knew Kristin would be stranded here all week? She didn't even let us know she was stuck here for the first few days--she just hopped back on the MAX after her flight was cancelled and headed back to her honeymooning friend's apt. in Beaverton. She returned to PDX three times during the week, only to have her flights cancelled as she was boarding! She finally contacted me on Friday night and we picked her up around 10 p.m. She took her chances and got dropped off at the airport yesterday afternoon--and I just got a message from her on FB that she made it to Anchorage. Redoubt must be taking a short snooze . . .

Then last night, about 10:30, I got a call from Afrida. Sudan, to be specific. I'd last heard from Candyce via email a few days ago--she and Will would attempt to cross the border into South Sudan but had no idea if they would be allowed in the country. There's so much turmoil in that nation right now that westerners are being told to leave, not encouraged to visit. But they made it to the YWAM base in Yei, after a 7 hour-long "taxi" ride. This will be Candyce's "home base" for the next 2 months.

I asked Candyce if Africa felt safe and she hesitated a moment before answering me.

"Well, we can't leave the compound (base) after 6 p.m." she said. "The LRA murdered a family about a mile from here less than a week ago. But I still feel safe!"

Needless to say, I didn't sleep for a while after that phone call. But I talked to Stephen and told him to take good care of my girl and he promised he would. Between Will and Stephen and God, I'm pretty sure whe will be OK. But please keep her in your prayers . . . and her poor mother, too!