Thursday, September 30, 2004

I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blow

Yes, Mt. St. Helens is acting up again. I guess that’s what we get for feeling all superior to Florida recently in the natural disaster department. They’re saying there’s a 70% chance of a smallish eruption in the next few days. Nowhere near as major as the 1980 eruption. Actual rock debris, etc. wouldn’t make it much further outside the crater. . They say 3 miles tops. But they’ve closed the mountain to climbers and have closed hiking trails near the top. Roads are still open and the observatories are still open to the public. Some of my co-workers are talking about heading up there to rubberneck. But the closest observatory, Johnston Ridge is only 5 miles away. Since I don’t think Pele or whatever volcano gods you worship care much about mortal distances of measurement, I’m not going to trust them to honor that theoretic 2 miles of a safety buffer. So I think for now I’ll just monitor the situation from the webcam , thankyouverymuch.

The other reason folks are more excited than worried about the possibility of an eruption is the time of the year. If this were May, when the 'Big One' occurred, you might see some panic about possible mudflows/ lahars like we saw back then. These were, in fact the primary agents of death and destruction. But if you go to the webcam, you'll notice the mountain is basically bare rock right now. No snow except a small glacier in the crater. If it were springtime, however the entire mountain would be covered in snow. Snow that might very well MELT very quickly. And be superheated by pyroclastic flows coming down the mountain to create a very nasty mudbath. So, anyway - no flows of either the mud or pyroclastic varieties are expected.

If there is an eruption they say the ash fallout wouldn’t go further than ten miles or so, but just in case, the mayor of Portland today advised folks to get to gether an emergency kit with water, etc. for 3 days. And most importantly, uber-stylish breathing masks . You think Michael Jackson was the trendsetter in that department? Think again. Folks in the NW sported these lovelies for up to a week after the first eruption in 1980. I think we'll be ready, just on the remote chance something happens. Curt has already been dispatched to the local Ace to pick up the masks and is preparing water. Now, I'm boning up on this handy-dandy "What to Do If A Volcano Erupts" guide from the USGS.

Keep it tuned right here, folks for the most up to the minute volcano commentary on the web!

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