Bookmark and Share

Lahar drills, Q&As part of Volcano Preparedness Month

Mount St. Helens erupting in 1980.

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared May as Volcano Preparedness Month in Washington state, providing residents an opportunity to become more familiar with volcanic risk in their communities and learn about steps they can take to reduce potential impacts.

For Volcano Preparedness Month, there will be multiple opportunities for public engagement:

  • From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, May 14, Washington Emergency Management Division is teaming with scientists from the Cascades Volcano Observatory to host a Reddit “Ask-Me-Anything,” with a focus on Cascade volcanoes. A team of experts in volcanology, geology and preparedness will be on hand to answer any questions about our volcanoes that the internet community may ask them. Feel free to follow along.
  • On Friday, May 10, the city of Orting will conduct a lahar evacuation exercise with the Orting School District, evacuating the school and joining community members to walk to the Washington Soldiers Home and then to high ground at the Pierce County Rock Quarry.
  • On Friday, May 17, the city of Puyallup will conduct a lahar evacuation exercise with the Puyallup School District, Washington Emergency Management Division and other community partners. More than 9,000 students and staff from 15 public and private schools located in the Puyallup valley lahar hazard area will practice their emergency evacuation routes.
  • On Saturday, May 18, the 39th anniversary of the catastrophic 1980 eruption, scientists and preparedness experts from U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory and Washington Emergency Management Division will be on site from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Mount St. Helens to talk about the eruption and why it’s important to be 2 Weeks Ready for all hazards. There is also a book signing for “A Hero on Mount St. Helens,” written by Melanie Holmes about the life of volcanologist David. A. Johnston, who lost his life when Mount St. Helens erupted. The Johnston Ridge Observatory is named for the volcanologist.

Mount St. Helens’ Eruption Anniversary

On May 18, 1980 at 8:32 a.m., the bulging north flank of Mount St. Helens slid away in a massive landslide. Seconds later, the uncorked volcano exploded and blasted rocks horizontally, destroying centuries of forest growth in a span of several minutes. Nine hours of explosive volcanic activity ensued, forever altering the landscape and what we know about volcanoes.

Washington state has five active volcanoes – Mount Adams, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Glacier Peak and Mount St. Helens.

The Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division, Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) at the University of Washington and the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory work together to provide timely warnings and reduce the negative impacts of future eruptions. Together, the agencies develop and exercise emergency plans with communities, coordinate communications, conduct public education programs and plan for short- and long-term recovery in the event an eruption or lahar should occur.  These agencies and local emergency management offices work together to keep coordination plans up-to-date.

Keeping up with volcanoes - local resources

The USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory website has information about Volcano Preparedness Month events, as well as the USGS volcano-monitoring program and the hazards in the Washington and Oregon. Stay informed: register for USGS Volcano Notification Service to receive volcanic activity alerts and information statements directly to your phone or e-mail. Find information updates about volcanoes and read about science in action at USGS Volcanoes on Facebook.

Washington state’s Emergency Management Division website contains a section about the state’s volcanoes and volcano preparedness measures. Educational materials for children, families and communities are found in the publications section. Follow the agency’s Twitter feed, and Facebook page for breaking news and information. The Washington Geological Survey (a division of the Washington state Department of Natural Resources) has developed a volcano-specific webpage.  Check out its Geologic Information Portal to learn about the hazards where you live, work and play.

LiDAR shows the lava flow potential from Mount Adams, courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources.

Preparing for future eruptions

The USGS–CVO, the PNSN, and the National Science Foundation-funded EarthScope Plate Boundary Observatory work to improve eruption forecasting and warning capabilities for Cascade volcanoes as part of the National Volcanic Early Warning System.

An update to the threat assessment for all of the country’s volcanoes was released last fall.

A new fact sheet about living with volcanoes is also now available.