SALEM, Ore. — On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted in a shower of rock, dirt and ash. The eruption killed 57 people, making it the deadliest volcano eruption in U.S. history. Positioned in the Cascades of western Washington, the fallout from St. Helens has been felt throughout the Pacific Northwest for almost four decades.
Now Oregon recognizes the month of May as "Volcano Preparedness Month," and state officials are asking people to learn more about the area's plentiful volcanoes and all the potential hazards that come with them.
“We can’t forget the fact that the entire Cascade Range is built from volcanoes," said Althea Rizzo, Geologic Hazards Coordinator for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM). "We like to hike on them in the summer time — we like to ski on them in the winter time, but we have to remember that beauty comes with a risk, and that risk is volcanic eruption."
Rizzo says that it's wise to have an emergency plan ready in case an evacuation becomes necessary, in addition to an emergency kit, and an idea of the health hazards that may present themselves following an eruption.
“The nice thing about volcanoes is they tend to give you plenty of warning. You will get a lot of signals that the volcano is waking up,” Rizzo said. “They can wake up, they can go back to sleep, or they can ramp up and go boom.”
Southern Oregon and northern California have a few potential offenders currently monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Crater Lake, Mount Shasta, and the Medicine Lake volcano all currently measure in the green, or "Normal" category. This means that while these volcanoes are considered active, there has not been any recent activity that could be cause for concern.
A recent report on the threat of volcanic eruptions in California found that "at least ten eruptions have taken place in the past 1,000 years, and future volcanic eruptions are inevitable." The report ranked Mount Shasta and Medicine Lake at "Very High" and "High" risk of eruption and resulting impact, respectively.
For more on active volcanoes in our area and beyond, check out the USGS website here.