Arab Times

Concerns of eruptions along W. Coast

Roaring like jet engines, new crack opens at Hawaii volcano


SPOKANE, Wash, May 13, (Agencies): The eruption of a Hawaii volcano in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” has experts warily eyeing volcanic peaks on America’s West Coast that are also part of the geological­ly active region.

The West Coast is home to an 800mile (1,300-kms) chain of 13 volcanoes, from Washington state’s Mount Baker to California’s Lassen Peak. They include Mount St Helens, whose spectacula­r 1980 eruption in the Pacific Northwest killed dozens of people and sent volcanic ash across the country, and massive Mount Rainier, which towers above the Seattle metro area.

“There’s lots of anxiety out there,” said Liz Westby, geologist at the US Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observator­y in Vancouver, Washington, in the shadow of Mount St Helens. “They see destructio­n, and people get nervous.”

Kilauea, on Hawaii’s Big Island, is threatenin­g to blow its top in coming days or weeks after sputtering lava for a week, forcing about 2,000 people to evacuate, destroying two dozen homes and threatenin­g a geothermal plant. Experts fear the volcano could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerat­ors miles into the air.

Here are some key things to know:

Roughly 450 volcanoes make up this horseshoe-shaped belt with Kilauea situated in the middle. The belt follows the coasts of South America, North America, eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It’s known for frequent volcanic and seismic activity caused by the colliding of crustal plates.

America’s most dangerous volcanoes are all part of the Ring of Fire, and most are on the West Coast, according to the US Geological Survey. Besides Kilauea, they include: Mount St Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington; Mount Hood and South Sister in Oregon; and Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic Center in California.

Images of lava flowing from the ground and homes going up in flames in Hawaii have stoked unease among residents elsewhere along the Ring of Fire. But experts say an eruption on one section of the arc doesn’t necessaril­y signal danger in other parts.

“These are isolated systems,” Westby said. Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in the year 79 await excavation. The stable belonged to a villa on Pompeii’s northern outskirts. The villa’s excavation also turned up kitchen utensils and part of a wooden bed. (AP)

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No eruption seems imminent, experts say.

The Cascades Volcano Observator­y monitors volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest and posts weekly status reports. All currently register “normal.” But the situation can change fast. “All our mountains are considered active and, geological­ly speaking, things seem to happen in the Northwest about every 100 years,” said John Ufford, preparedne­ss manager for the Washington Emergency Management Division. “It’s an inexact timeline.”

Some geologists believe Mount St Helens is the most likely to erupt.

But six other Cascade volcanoes have been active in the past 300 years, including steam eruptions at Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak and a 1915 blast at Lassen Peak that destroyed nearby ranches.

The Big Island scenes of rivers of lava snaking through neighborho­ods and sprouting fountains are unlikely in the Pacific Northwest.

“Lava is not the hazard, per se, like in Hawaii,” said Ian Lange, a retired University of Montana geology professor. Cascade volcanos produce a thicker, more viscous type of lava than Hawaiian volcanoes, so it doesn’t run as far, Lange said.

The Cascade volcanoes can produce huge clouds of choking ash and send deadly mudslides into rivers and streams. Two of the most potentiall­y destructiv­e are Mount St Helens, north of the Portland, Oregon, metro area, and 14,000-foot (4,270-meter) Mount Rainier, which is visible from the cities of Seattle and Tacoma.

Mount Rainier eruptions in the distant past have caused destructio­n as far west as Puget Sound, some 50 miles (80 kms) away. The volcano hasn’t produced a significan­t eruption in the past 500 years. But it remains dangerous because of its great height, frequent earthquake­s, active hydrotherm­al system, and 26 glaciers, experts said.

The closest settlement to a West Coast volcano may be Government Camp, on Oregon’s Mount Hood. Lava could conceivabl­y reach the town, but the greater threat is an eruption triggering a so-called pyroclasti­c flow, which is a fast-moving cloud of hot ash and gas, experts said.

But Lange believes California’s Mount Shasta is the most dangerous, in part because it is surrounded by towns.

The town of Mt. Shasta has numerous response plans for emergencie­s, including a volcano eruption, Police Chief Parish Cross said. But the plan for a volcano is pretty fluid, he said.

“We don’t know the size or scope of the event,” Cross said, including which direction the eruption would occur.

This is not an issue in Orting, Washington, about 20 miles (32 kms) west of Mount Rainier. Orting would be directly in the path of a lahar, and local officials each year conduct drills in which children move from school to higher ground to escape the flow.

Students usually take about 45 minutes to walk the 2 miles (3 kms) to higher ground, which should be fast enough to escape, officials said.

Orting is the town most vulnerable to lahar damage from Mount Rainier, according to the US Geological Survey.

Here are the 10 most dangerous volcanic mountains in the US, according to the US Geological Survey: Kilauea, Hawaii Mount St Helens, Washington Mount Rainier, Washington Mount Hood, Oregon Mount Shasta, California South Sister, Oregon Lassen Volcanic Center, California Mauna Loa, Hawaii Redoubt, Alaska Crater Lake, Oregon Meanwhile, a new fissure roaring like jet engines and spewing magma opened on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on Saturday, piling lava as high as a four-story building, as the area torn by the US volcano’s eruption spread.

The crack in pasture land on Kilauea’s east flank was the 16th recorded since the volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted eight days ago. Thousands of people have fled their homes on Hawaii’s Big Island because of lava and toxic gases, and dozens of homes have been destroyed.

The new fissure opened up about a mile (1.6 km) east of the existing vent system that has devastated the island’s Leilani Estates neighborho­od, with a few homes on the edge of the field where the vent opened. The US Geological Survey warned that more outbreaks remained likely.

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