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article imageFive of the Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes, including Mt. Rainier, are located in the Pacific Norhtwest

By photoguy     Mar 1, 2007 in Environment
The USGS recently ranked the United States volcanoes in terms of the most dangerous in the potential for loss of life and destruction of property, including Mt. Rainier in the Cascade Range, near Seattle, Washington. It poses a real threat to that city.
This post is of great interest to me since I live in the Pacific Northwest and I am very familiar with the volcanoes in Washington, Oregon, and California, that were included in this study.
The study, based on how big the eruption might be and the amount of damage that it would cause, ranked the volcanoes as follows: 1) Kilauea, Hawaii; 2) Mount St. Helens, Washington; 3) Mount Rainier, Washington; 4) Mount Hood, Oregon; 5) Mount Shasta, California; 6) South Sister, Oregon; 7) Lassen Volcanic Center, California; 8) Mauna Loa, Hawaii; 9) Redoubt; Alaska; and 10) Crater Lake, Oregon.
The metropolitan area of Seattle, Washington is most vulnerable to damage should Mt. Rainier erupt. The most recent eruption in the late 1400’s sent a torrent of mud down the western flank and buried the spot where the city of Orting, Washington is located. About 500 years prior, the volcano sent a torrent of mud down the White River to present day Auburn, Washington. I am familiar with the White River Valley. It is a beautiful area of rolling forested hills, providing an escape from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, but close enough to Seattle for a relatively easy commute. The proximity of Mount Rainier to the Seattle area and the extent of possible damage should an eruption occur can be seen at
The USGS says that there are many “blind spots” on the mountain so they are in the process of installing more global positioning (GPS) units on the mountain to monitor the mountain’s movements and detect surface deformation in order to better predict when an eruption might occur. “The additional earthquake gauges would enable scientists to get a better picture of an earthquake, such as how deep it is. The depth can indicate whether molten rock is moving toward the surface.”
I witnessed the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980, which was characterized by a huge pyroclastic blast sending devastating mud flows down the Toutle River in Western Washington along with a huge ash cloud covering much of Eastern Washington into Idaho and Montana. Fortunately because of the timing of the eruption on a Sunday morning and the early warnings by the USGS from the monitors then in place, very few lives were lost. Even so I had a good friend, who was killed while he was working on the mountain on the day of the eruption.
Having experienced the eruption of Mount St. Helens, I can appreciate the devastation that would be caused by an eruption of any of the volcanoes mentioned. I certainly applaud the USGS efforts to begin monitoring the volcanoes more closely.
I think that is interesting that Crater Lake, Oregon was included. Crater Lake is in the collapsed cauldron of Mount Mazama, said to have been 42 times more powerful than Mount St. Helens, when it erupted 2100 to 2150 years ago. Crater Lake is 1958 feet (597 m) deep, making it the second deepest lake in North American. So if Mt. Mazama (Crater Lake) were to erupt again the devastation would be compounded massive floods.
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