ORLANDO – UCF's season opener in Ireland next week against Penn State may be in peril because of a possible volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Iceland's Civil Protection Department said Wednesday that about 500 people have been evacuated from the highlands, part of the Vatnajokull glacier. The action was taken as a precaution following thousands of small earthquakes recently near Bardarbunga, a sub-glacial stratovolcano under the glacier.
The risk of Bardabunga erupting has increased over the past few days and Iceland's proximity to Ireland could make this a huge hurdle for UCF and Penn State.
UCF is scheduled to depart for Ireland on Tuesday for its Aug. 30 game. Athletics spokesman Andy Seeley said school officials are monitoring the situation.
Iceland is separated from Ireland by the Atlantic Ocean and about 900 miles, but a volcanic eruption in Iceland could produce volcanic ash and potentially affect flights to Europe.
In 2010, an Icelandic volcano erupted and triggered the cancellation of 100,000 flights in Europe. The ash from the volcano can cause problems for plane engines, prompting the decision to ground flights. Airlines have been unable to find alternative routes in the past, with similiar volcanic activity preventing President Barack Obama from attending the funeral of a Polish president in 2010.