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Thursday, December 9, 2010


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It is best for people that live near a volcano to make plans for an eruption. Learn the alert levels issued by your local emergency management office and know what they mean. Listen for emergency updates and instructions, making note of information about hazards you may encounter. Prepare for a possible evacuation. Make additional preparations to shelter in place.

A volcanic eruption can alter the landscape in ways that are difficult to imagine. Near the site, there can be loss of life, and destruction of structures and property. The resulting ash cloud can cause airports to shut down and turn daylight to darkness. Earthquakes, flash floods, wildfires, thunderstorms and tsunamis can all occur as the result of a volcanic eruption.

Memorize the recommended evacuation routes. Maps marked with this route should be kept in each car and another in your home. Select maps with detailed geographical markings of the area surrounding your location. In the United States, hazard zone maps can be secured from the U.S. Geological Survey that will show probable lava flow paths and give time estimates on travel to certain locations along with their relative safety.

Prepare a getaway kit. Include safety goggles and dust masks or bandannas to protect your eyes and lungs from falling ash. Include long sleeved shirts, long pants and sturdy footwear. Keep a well-stocked first aid kit, blankets and warm clothing in a convenient location. With this, keep a battery-powered radio and fresh batteries so that you can still monitor alerts if your power goes out.

Unless you need to evacuate, stay indoors. Bring pets inside and move livestock into shelters. Close all vents, doors and windows for protection from ash and burning cinders. Put damp towels under doorways. Cover downspouts, machinery, electronic devices and computers to protect them from ash that can disable and clog machinery and pipes.

Listen for creaking noises from your roof. Ash will fall silently and can cause the roof to collapse under its weight. Remember to wear a mask and goggles if you go outside to clear ash off of the roof and gutters. Remove your clothing before re-entering the house rather than bring ash inside where it can irritate the airways of everyone indoors.

Keep at least three days worth of water and food in your home. An eruption can contaminate water supplies and you may have to rely upon what you have stored. If you hear that an eruption is imminent, fill all sinks, tubs and containers with water. Rely upon your stored water until your regular source is deemed safe.

If you must drive, use your headlights, proceed slowly at about 35 mph and watch your gauges for signs of an overheating engine. Ash can clog your radiator and other moving parts of an engine. Ash will also make roads slippery. When parked, cover your vehicle with a tarp and place it under a shelter to protect it from the falling ash.

If you must evacuate, turn electricity and gas off at the mains before you leave. Head for higher ground and try to stay upwind so that ash and gases are blown away from you. Volcanoes’ greatest dangers (lava flows, mudflows, poison gases and flooding) all move towards low-lying areas. An elevated area gives you greater protection than any attempt to outdistance the danger.

Afterwards, don’t return home until authorities say it’s safe to re-enter the area. Seek medical treatment for any injuries. The wait for medical treatment will be shorter for those farther away from the disaster site. When cleaning up property after an eruption, dampen the ash before sweeping or shoveling the buildup. This keeps the slippery substance from getting tossed back into the air.

Remember, in the event of an eruption, you may have only moments to react. Being prepared to move quickly and decisively can mean the difference between life and death.

This 4 minute video shows the extent of the destruction
caused by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

This 17 second video shows Mount St. Helens
erupting in slow motion.

The entire side of the mountain slides to one side.

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a perpetual student of things I find interesting and (I hope) helpful to others. Feel free to use and apply all information with a healthy dose of common sense. :-)

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