Stranded in the City: Life Disrupted by Volcanic Ash Event

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Smoke and steam hangs over the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland, Wednesday April 14, 2010, which has erupted for the second time in less than a month, melting ice, shooting smoke and steam into the air and forcing hundreds of people to flee rising floodwaters. Volcanic ash drifting across the Atlantic forced the cancellation of flights in Britain and disrupted air traffic across northern Europe, stranding thousands of passengers. Flights in and out of London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, were halted, and the shutdowns and cancellations spread to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. The volcano's smoke and ash poses a threat to aircraft because it can affect visibility, and microscopic debris can get sucked into airplane engines and can cause them to shut down.(AP Photo/Jon Gustafsson) ** ICELAND OUT **

    One man won't make it to a friend's wedding. A woman is likely to miss the first day of her new job. And an author may not get an opportunity to promote her latest novel at a London book fair.
           
    Like so many other people, this trio from England is stranded in New York City because of the volcanic airborne event halting air traffic over Europe. They're all waiting at a hotel near Kennedy Airport to hear when they'll be able to go home.
           
    Jackie Reeves was hoping she'll make it back in time to start her new job on Monday.

    "I don't know when we'll be able to get back," said the 48-year-old from Ipswich, about 70 miles outside of London, as she stood in the lobby of a hotel near John F. Kennedy International Airport.

    "I have a couple of big meetings for the new job on Tuesday," she said. "If I'm not back for those, that would be difficult."
           
    Ashley Hodge, also from England, said he's supposed to be an usher at a wedding this weekend. He even bought a suit for the occasion.

    The organizers of the wedding, he said, are now "quite frustrated" with him.

    "One volcano has screwed up everything," he said.
           
    Author Rayner Tapia, a fantasy fiction author, said she's worried she'll miss a chance to promote her latest novel at the London Book Fair.  She was in New York for vacation and to sign books, but was most looking forward to the London book Fair, which stars Monday.

    "That's when the book is launched officially," she said. She also needed to prepare for a scheduled book signing on April 24. "I need to do posters, banners, make sure my props are ready. I have people dressing up like characters."

    There were also other matters disrupted by the extraordinary event: her 14-year-old son was expected to take exams Monday that will determine which career path he will take and her husband has a company to run. "It's a nightmare. It's unreal," she said.

    Aviation experts said it was among the worst disruptions Europe has ever seen.

    "We don't have many volcanoes in Europe," said David Learmount of Flight International, an editor at the aviation publication. "But the wind was blowing in the wrong direction."

    Ice chunks the size of houses tumbled down from a volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier on Thursday as hot gases melted the ice. The volcano began erupting Wednesday for the second time in less than a month.

    As torrents of water roared down the steep slopes of the volcano, flash floods washed away chunks of Iceland's main ring road. More floods are expected as long as the volcano keeps erupting, which scientists said it was continuing to do in daily pulses.

    The cloud of basalt, drifting between 20,000 to 30,000 feet (6,000 to 9,000 meters) high and invisible from the ground, at first blocked the main air flight path between the U.S. east coast and Europe. On Friday, the British Meteorological Office said the cloud's trajectory was taking it over northern France and Austria and into eastern and central Russia at about 25 mph (40 kpm).

    Fearing that microscopic particles of highly abrasive ash could endanger passengers by causing aircraft engines to fail, authorities shut down air space over Britain, Ireland, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium. That halted flights at Europe's two busiest airports — Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris — as well as dozens of other airports, 25 in France alone.