Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tongariro Erupts - First Time In A Century!

Mother Nature has growled again.
Mt Tongariro, one of the three major volcanoes in NZ’s central North Island erupted late last night, for the first time in over a century: its last disturbance was in 1897.
Tongariro - in quieter times...
Near midnight, ash was reported falling near the volcano (its since been reported as far east as Napier, on the east coast). Several loud explosions, lightning and plumes of smoke were reported, while one onelooker described "a new hole in the side of the mountain", and also bright red rocks being ejected.
Its alert level has been raised from 1 to 2 (on a scale of 1-5). This means 'minor eruptive activity' - thus the current volcanic action should not be mis-interpreted as another Mt St Helen's!
In a precautionary move, the Desert Road / SH1 is closed between Rangipo and Waiouru, as is SH46 west of Rangipo. SH47 and 4 remain open at this stage as does SH5.
Flight operations to the west of the volcano are unaffected, but operations to the eastern half of the North Island will have some difficulty. A weather front is due, which should disperse the ash cloud, but that depends on whether there are further eruptions.
NZ's other high-profile active volcano, White Island in the Bay of Plenty, also had its alert level raised from 1 ('signs of volcano unrest') to 2 yesterday, after a small eruption was recorded in its crater lake. Its last previous eruption had been in 2000.
[Click here] for GeoNet's current Tongariro status...
- Mt Tongariro erupted at 11.50pm last night, hurling rocks up to 1km.
- Ash cloud drifting to the east of Tongariro, landing as far as Napier.
- SH1 and SH46 have reopened. Flights to/from Napier cancelled, while other North Island services have been delayed.
- GNS: It was a hydrothermal-driven eruption, rather than magmatic.
- Turoa and Whakapapa skifields remain open.

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