Volcanoes, they fascinate, terrify and occasionally kill. May 18, 1980 Mount saint helens explodes.
“This is one of the most violent phenomena on earth”
The ash rises 15 miles into the sky. The blast moves at supersonic speed. The mudflows swallow people alive.
“Almost everybody who was inside did died.”
Leaving behind a ruined paradise.
“25 miles out there wasn’t a living thing.”
Fortunately, Saint Helens was in an unpopulated area. But what if another volcano erupts closer to a city? Like Seattle, Mount Rainier 60 miles away it’s overdue.
“It’s definitely a question of when, not question of if.”
And experts say when that day comes, tens of thousands could be killed. Now using past disasters and the latest scientific predictions, we getting eye witness look at what happens when an american volcano becomes a mega disaster.
Majestic Mount Rainier looms over Seattle, the icon on the pristine Pacific Northwest. Thousands of people lived in the valleys just below Rainier, its Indian name Tahoma alludes to a giant, slumbering, and a cave. But one morning, that giant might suddenly awake and local residents will learn that they have been living under a time bomb. And when that day comes, the sky will rain fire and rock.
“When Mount Rainier erupt, if it’s an explosive type of eruption. There would be a jet up gas, stash and hot rock. There would be hurled skywards for several hundred meters.” Barry Voight, Volcanologist, Penn State/USGS said.
As a massive plume charms the skies over many years, shattered rock, gas and glass shards spread over the surface of the cone.
“And that debt mixture would be tribulant, it would jump off, but the snow and ice mix with it can cause extensive melting.” Voight added.
This steering hot flow of gas in plumes charges down the flanks. Mowing down 50 foot tall trees as if there glades the grass. The eruption pumps in deadly mixture of rock and natural glass particles into the sky. The expanding comma chokes day into night. The black curtain abash five miles into the air and is visible in Seattle sixty miles away. Sparks ignited hundreds of forest fires. But ashes is what presents the greatest danger. North is the eruption. 150,000 residents in the towns dotting the valley below are in grave danger. From one of the least recognized of all the volcanic hazards. Creeping, deadly mudflows.
“Something like 30 miles, square miles of snow and ice available for melting almost instantaneously sure they have an explosive pyroclastic eruption occur.” Voight added.
14,000 feet above the valley this pyroclastic flow searing stream of ash and plumes reaches 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit melting a snowpack. This is all it takes to start a disaster up biblical proportions. Boiling water funnels down shoots into mud and debris. The hot flood shoots off slams abase. Pick some boulders devours wet soil from the valley sides, growing in sizes, speed and power as it heads toward the half dozen towns below the mountain. In the valleys, warning sirens wailed and residents jammed the two-lane highway leading to safety. The side is the consistency of wet concrete. Concrete that can travel at nearly forty miles per hour. The residents have to flee on foot, those who can run, those who cannot died. Deafening roar the landslide slams into the Puyallup River Valley. As it rolls into the small town of Orting, the torrent of mud is nearly 30 feet high it swallows home, small businesses and schools.
The river of mud and debris as think as quicksand shocking victims under. The flood submerges 40 square miles of what was once a peaceful valley. The unstoppable sludge fills the town’s a Puyallup, Enumclaw, and Kent. Tuning tens of thousands of people. The torrent of mud pins out as it races through Tacoma stopping only when it reaches the Port of Seattle 16 miles from Rainier. Damage to homes and commercial property exceeds $10 billion dollars. This may seem like a nightmare scenario but catastrophic eruptions are nothing new in this part of the country.