Why it’s important to learn about volcanoes in Oregon

Photo courtesy of USGS

Photo courtesy of USGS

On Sunday, May 18, 1980, at 8:32 a.m., the bulging north flank of Mount St. Helens slid away in a massive landslide — the largest in recorded history. Seconds later, the uncorked volcano exploded and blasted rocks northward across forest ridges and valleys, destroying everything in its path within minutes.

Friday, May 18, is the anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption that, in 1980, unleashed the most devastating eruption in U.S. history, according to a press release from Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

This year’s anniversary is happening as volcanic activity continues to emit dangerous gases and lava in Kilauea, Hawaii, and Oregon Office of Emergency Management Geologic Hazards Coordinator Althea Rizzo said now is great time to remember that it is important learn about volcanoes in Oregon.

“There are lots of places to get good information about volcanoes,” Rizzo said. “We live in a unique area that is geologically active, and understanding hazards posed by volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest is important because volcanoes have potential to cause problems.”

Scientist-in-Charge, Cascades Volcano Observatory, Seth Moran also said that it is a good idea to understand what mountains are volcanoes and what the potential hazards associated with those volcanoes are, but said that while the ash clouds in Kilauea are ominous for Hawaiians, that they are small in the grand scheme of things and principally pose a hazard only to the Big Island.

“It’s highly unlikely that Kilauea will produce an ash cloud capable of reaching the mainland,” he said.

The Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) is the agency responsible for monitoring airspace for ash in the Pacific Northwest. Alerts can be accessed at www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/messages.html. For more information on volcanoes visit volcanoes.usgs.gov/index.html.

“It is important to know what the hazards are for the areas you work and live in,” Rizzo said. “We all have hazards to deal with. Once you know the hazard, you can plan.”

For more information on how to get prepared for emergencies go to www.oregon.gov/oem/hazardsprep/Pages/2-Weeks-Ready.aspx.

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