Thank you all for coming today, I am happy to be chairing this hearing, since Volcanic Ash poses such a grave threat to Alaska. I expect Senator DeMint to join us a bit later.
As we speak, Augustine Volcano located in Cook Inlet, is at code orange, which means an explosive eruption is possible within a few days and may occur with little or no warning. The United States Geological Survey folks in Alaska sent me this picture last night. This was right before sunset yesterday over Augustine, you can see the steam spewing from the top.
Over half the population of Alaska lies within 200 miles of that volcano. Two months ago, it spewed ash throughout south-central Alaska, shutting down several airports throughout the area.
Alaska averages four days of volcanic ash activity a year, and since more than one third of Alaskans do not have road access, flying is the preferred method of transportation. Anchorage, our biggest city, is within potential striking distance of ash from over 9 active volcanoes. Anchorage International Airport is also the largest cargo hub in the United States, and all passenger flights from Asia to the United States, fly over Alaska and its 41 active volcanoes.
Witness Panel 1
Captain Terry McVenesExecutive Air Safety ChairmanAirline Pilots Association
Dr. John EichelbergerProfessor of VolcanologyUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks
Mr. James QuickProgram Coordinator for the Volcano Hazards ProgramU.S. Geological Survey