“Catastrophic Volcanoes”

terwilliger

When I woke this morning I read a blog post from my friend Arlene in the Philippines reporting the beginning of a massive eruption of the Taal Volcano, about fifty miles from her home. The volcano had not erupted since 1977, and it is posing a danger not only to those living near by, but also to a wide area on all sides. The government has called it an Alert 4, which suggests an imminent explosion.

On May 18, 1980 we were heading home from church when the radio alerted me to an eruption of the usually serene Mt. St. Helens, 47 miles from our home. At least 130 years had passed since its previous major activity. This time many more people lived near the mountain and many towns were built along the river below. I drove to a ridge above our home and stood, with a crowd pictured above, to watch the astonishing sight. It turned out I could see it from the neighbor’s porch when we drove home even though we were at river level. Soon ash began to fall all around us. This heavy ash resembled tiny pebbles more than light ash. It filled gutters, covered cars, and made breathing challenging for a while.

In floods you can usually find higher ground. In blizzards you can usually hunker down even without power. Tornadoes find us in the cellar. Heavy winds keep us away from windows. But volcanoes don’t give you any options. You can’t know when and for how long the eruptions will last. Like earthquakes, they remind you that we are at nature’s mercy much more than we like to think.

My love goes out to Arlene, her family and her country. And, by the way, you will never intrigue me with the offer of “volcano tourism.” I’ve seen enough.

29 thoughts on ““Catastrophic Volcanoes”

  1. I remember where I was when I heard Mt. St. Helens blew her top. I was at school in Bellingham and when I heard a mountain had erupted I thought it was nearby Mt. Baker which sometimes had steam rising above it. I’d barely heard of Mt. St Helens before then. It must have been eery to see it and experience the fallout. A reminder that many of our mountains in the Cascade range are active volcanoes.

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  2. Volcanoes are one of nature’s scariest phenomena. Not only is there lava and ash but toxic fumes that create acid rain. I am glad you were safe from the volcano, and I hope friend Arlene is as well.

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      1. We lived in England 40 years ago for a couple of years. I have the letters I wrote to our families and am thinking of posting them on the same dates 40 years after the fact. We made two trips to house hunt about this time of year.

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  3. I also remember Mt. St. Helen’s eruption quite well. I was twenty-one years old. I just looked it up and see that it is 471 miles north of me. I remember that for days the vehicles in our area had ash settle on them.

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  4. Oh my! How interesting you were near there at that time but also how scary. I’ve never lived anywhere where there is a threat of earthquakes or volcanoes. We’ve had small earthquakes and that was enough to freak me out. My husband used to live in Southern California and said the one earthquake he lived through was enough to last him a lifetime.

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  5. I lived in the midwest at the time of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I still remember how dark the sky was several days later as a result of ash at high levels of the atmosphere. It just seemed amazing that the ash was still in the atmosphere more than a thousand miles away from Mt. St. Helens.

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  6. Yes, we have been aware of the unfolding eruption in the Philippines Elizabeth, praying for all involved.

    Goodness you were close to Mt. St. Helen’s! What was your experience in the massive eruption?

    My hubby has been on Mt. Yasa volcano on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, they actually were on the edge of the cone as Lava bombs exploded from its molten Lake landing close by them. To me this is absolutely crazy!

    NZ volcanic blast recently had tragic consequences for many tourists.
    Blessings ,
    Jennifer

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