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Mt. Redoubt volcano in Alaska placed back on Orange alert

March 16, 2009 | 11:48 am

Mt. Redoubt's north flank, as photographed Sunday from the south. Steam plume contained some ash, causing heightened alert.

Alaskans are on alert once more as scientists have elevated the status for Mt. Redoubt volcano from yellow to orange.

Orange is a "watch" level just below red, which signals an eruption is imminent or underway.

Scientists with the Alaska Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey changed the status Sunday afternoon after detecting a substantial increase in seismicity and witnessing a vigorous steam plume.

In that plume was the first ash emission from Redoubt since the last long series of volcanic eruptions in 1989-90. However, it remains unclear whether Sunday's ash emission was from magma. And Kristi Wallace, a USGS research geologist, assured that an eruption has not occurred.

Asked whether an eruption is imminent, she said it does not appear to be the case, as tremor activity has since quieted within the 10,197-foot peak, which is located 103 miles southwest of Anchorage.

In fact, scientists estimate the chance of an eruption to be about 50-50 at this point.

If Redoubt does erupt, residents and visiting tourists on the nearby Kenai Peninsula, and perhaps even in Anchorage, might experience one or two millimeters of ash fall.

"That's not a lot, but it's enough to be a distraction and cause some havoc," Wallace said.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Mt. Redoubt's north flank, as photographed Sunday from the south. Steam plume contained some ash, causing heightened alert. Credit: Heather Bleick for Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey

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