Relief as volcanic ash clears over Bay

By Roger Moroney


The airways over Hawke's Bay returned to normal just after 9.30am yesterday, although three earlier scheduled flights had been forced to cancel because sulphur could be smelled in the air.

A 7.35am service to Christchurch and an 8.05am flight to Auckland were cancelled, along with an inbound Auckland flight which had been scheduled to arrive at 7.45am.

Four following services were all delayed by up to an hour as Air New Zealand played catch-up, although by 10.15am the rest of the day's services were running as scheduled.

The lifting of the aviation alert was met with relief by hundreds of travellers arriving at the airport during the morning, and by Skyline Aviation personnel who operate helicopter and fixed wing emergency aircraft.

It was the third major airport closure of the winter; the previous two the result of fog.

Air particle matter readings gathered by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council on Tuesday showed at the height of the ash cloud the micron measurement for the air over Napier was 130.25.

At the same time the previous day it was 13.6.

The council's Civil Defence emergency management group controller, Ian Macdonald, said the air readings peaked about 6am and slowly fell away during the day as the cloud was pushed to the southeast.

But he said much of the material swept up and checked out by staff yesterday across the region was pine pollen.

One Church Rd, Greenmeadows, resident reported a yellow cloud coming from the forest yesterday.

"A fair chunk of it was pine pollen but it was definitely ash up in Wairoa," Mr Macdonald said. "They were leaving footprints as they walked."

There had been no reported problems with water supplies.

Mr Macdonald said that in the wake of the Ruapehu eruption in 1995 the Wairoa District Council had carried out extensive work to protect the area's supply.

He had spoken to engineers there and they reported it had worked well.

Napier Civil Defence manager Angela Reade said Tuesday's volcanic ash cloud alert was a good opportunity for people to consider joining a text alert service.

"More and more people have access to the internet and mobile phones these days. We are moving with the times and meeting the ever-growing demand people have come to expect with the advancements of technology."

Those wanting to sign up for the text alerts had to follow two easy steps: text napier - cd, then send to 8987.

A confirmation text would reply, with usual charges applying.

But Mrs Reade said people should not rely on the text alerts as their main information source as there were circumstances which could affect it.

For more information on the new texting service, visit www.napier.govt.nz or phone Napier Civil Defence on 835 7579.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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