Cotopaxi sends huge ash plumes 3 miles into sky

Cotopaxi is more than 19,000 feet tall and hasn't erupted since 1940.

(CNN)Cotopaxi, a volcano not far from the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, spewed ash several times Friday morning, sending large gray puffs 3 miles into the sky, officials at the Geophysics Institute told the state news agency ANDES.

Ash could reach Latacunga, Machachi and Quito, north of the volcano. Officials have declared a yellow alert, but said there is no impending probability of a major eruption.
Yellow alerts are the lowest of three and are in place to warn residents to take precautions such as using masks to cover their mouths and to be prepared in case evacuations become necessary.
    The stratovolcano is 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Quito.
    Residents of Machachi, Ecuador wear masks Friday afternoon.
    Straovolcanoes, or composite volcanoes, are steep-sided, symmetrical cones that are often very tall. Cotopaxi is 5,911 meters (19,388 feet) in elevation.
    It last erupted in 1940, according to the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program.
    In the last major eruption in 1877, muddy debris traveled more than 100 kilometers (62 miles).