As part of an international effort to strength volcano preparedness, Pierce County is welcoming Colombian scientists, politicians, and emergency management officials responsible for volcano preparedness.
This week, the Colombian contingent will accompany U.S. counterparts during visits to the Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier areas. The U.S. and Colombia share similar volcanic risks, and both have ongoing preparedness programs. By sharing knowledge and experience, both countries enhance their understanding of methods used to protect the public from volcanic hazards.
The Colombian delegation’s week-long visit to the U.S. is taking place during Volcano Preparedness Month and follows an April visit to the Nevado del Ruiz area by 10 U.S. officials and scientists. This bi-national exchange of scientists, emergency managers and first responders is sponsored by the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
About Nevado del Ruiz
In 1985, Nevado del Ruiz, an ice-clad volcano similar to Mount Rainier, erupted and generated lahars that killed more than 23,000 people.
After that tragedy in Colombia, the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance joined forces to create the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, which aids volcano monitoring and eruption response in countries around the world when requested.
Since 1985, the group, stationed at the USGS Cascades Volcanic Observatory (CVO) in Vancouver, Wash., has responded to more than 25 volcano crises and eruptions, built volcano monitoring infrastructure in 12 countries and helped save tens of thousands of lives. USGS scientists who witnessed the aftermath of the Colombian disaster returned to the United States and intensified their efforts to educate local officials and populations at risk.
In Washington State, five glacier-clad volcanoes, similar in many ways to Nevado del Ruiz, threaten populated areas near the volcanoes. At Mount Rainier, the lahar threat to people living in the shadow of the mountain in the valley tens of kilometers away has long been considered similar to what occurred at Nevado del Ruiz.
Mount Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the U.S., due to the style and frequency with which it erupts. In addition, as when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, an untold amount of people, infrastructure, and economic activity in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area would be impacted by volcanic ash fall.
An Event for the Public
An event to inform local residents about volcano hazards will be held Thurs., May 4 at 6 p.m. at Orting High School’s Performing Arts Center, 320 Washington Ave N, Orting, WA 98360. Members of the public may view volcano-related exhibits and presentations by Colombian and U.S. officials about volcano preparedness within their respective nations.
Sarah Foster, PIO, Department of Emergency Management