May is Volcano Preparedness Month in Washington, providing residents an opportunity to learn about steps that can be taken to reduce potential impacts caused by such a devastation.
The public is invited to “What Mount Rainier Has in Store”, a free presentation at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16 at the Puyallup Activity Center, 210 W. Pioneer Ave. in Puyallup. The presentation will provide a close look at the alternative scenarios that could take place when it erupts and how residents throughout Pierce County can adequately prepare to cope with that eventuality.
Many scientists believe that Mount Rainier may spring to life in our lifetime. The 14,000-foot mountain, with its extensive snow fields and 25 glaciers, is considered to be one of the nation’s most dangerous volcanoes. Since its last eruption in 1894-95, thousands of people have moved into its traditional impact area. An eruption now could be catastrophic.
Mount Rainier will likely not erupt in the fashion of the Hawaiian volcanoes with extensive flows of lava. But the impact of an eruption will probably be much worse and more devastating. In the past 50 years towns like Puyallup, Sumner and Orting have flourished and thousands of homes have been built in the valleys surrounding and below the mountain – exactly where the impact of a mud flows/lahars will be most felt.
An eruption of Mount Rainier could produce volcanic ash, lava flows, and avalanches of intensely hot rock and volcanic gases, called pyroclastic flows. The primary hazard, mud flows/lahars created by melted snow and ice, debris has historically reached as far as Commencement Bay and Puget Sound. At least one of Mount Rainier’s recent large landslide, generated lahars may have occurred when the volcano was quiet – as it is today – and, without the technical monitoring we have today, did not provide the warning signs typical of a restless and erupting volcano. In such a rare case, the only warning could be a report that a lahar is already underway, leaving residents little time to do more than evacuate.
“Mount Rainier is the scenic gem that defines our county,” said Aaron Van Valkenburg, Pierce County Aging and Disability Resources manager. “If something happens or begins to happen, seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations will not have the luxury of time to move out of harm’s way. Knowing what scientists predict and preparing accordingly is essential.”
The presentation is free and open to the public. Anyone of any age can attend. No RSVP is required. It will provide participants with information about what scientists have discovered about Mount Rainier, including the type of eruption that is most anticipated, impacting evacuation plans and long term recovery strategies.
For more information about the presentation, call the Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.
Bob Riler, Community Connections