Alaskans are on edge as volcano continues to rumble

ANCHORAGE — When is this thing going to blow?

That was the question on the minds of people calling the Alaska Volcano Observatory from Alaska and far beyond as Mount Redoubt continued simmering into its second week.

Well, according to the AVO, the answer is that Redoubt is on the brink of an explosive eruption that could shower Southcentral Alaska with several millimeters of ash. Or not.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey said on Monday that activity has been "waxing and waning" at the volcano 106 miles southwest of Anchorage and that it remains more likely than not to erupt within days to weeks, although it could also cool down without erupting.

"There is very good evidence now that we have new magma involved in this process," said Tina Neal, a USGS geologist with the AVO. "Unfortunately, we just don't know enough yet to know exactly where this magma is and whether or not it will actually make its way out of the ground."

The uncertainty surrounding a volcanic eruption has prompted hundreds of people to call scientists to get the skinny and thousands more to flood the AVO's Web site — intense traffic Friday caused the site to crash. But the No. 1 question is the one scientists can't answer for certain.

"Everybody wants to know when it's going to erupt," said Bill Lukas, spokesman for the USGS. "There's a pretty good likelihood that that's going to happen, but there's still a chance that it could not."

Steve McNutt, a volcanologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and coordinator at the AVO, said interest has been fairly high for an event that hasn't even happened yet; generally, things pick up after an eruption. McNutt's voice mail has been filling up with messages from people wanting information, he said.

One recent caller had a ticket to Hawaii and wanted to ensure the volcano wouldn't disrupt the flight, he said.

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