Concerns that ash from the erupting Sangay volcano would reach Cuenca on Friday did not materialize but Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute warns that a wind shift from a westerly to a southwesterly direction is still possible and that the city should remain on alert.
The institute reported Friday afternoon that the eruption at Sangay was gaining strength and sending a gas and ash cloud two miles into the atmosphere. It predicted the strengthening process will continue at least through the weekend.
Light to moderate ashfall was continuous on Friday in Chimborazo, Tungurahua and Cotopaxi provinces, forcing farmers to relocate livestock in several areas. Farmers also worried about the effect of the ash on strawberry, potato, pea and corn crops. The cities of Riobamba and Ambato experienced light ashfall.
Personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture toured the affected area Thursday and Friday, advising property owners on methods to to protect livestock and crops. “They are providing some guidance but what we need most is rain to wash away the ash,” says rancher Rodrigo Guamán in Chimborazo. “They tell us there will be rain east of here, in the Amazon, but it’s not expected to come over the mountains. We will continue to pray for it, however.”
Geophysical Institute technicians say that two factors will determine if the ash reaches Cuenca: a shift in wind direction from the west-southwest to the southwest and the continuation of strong high-level winds. “We expected a change in wind direction Friday but it did not happen,” an institute bulletin said. “The change remains a possibility and those in affected areas should remain prepared.”