Mount Lassen

June 1, 2017 – Earthquakes. Wildfires. Floods. Landslides. California is among the most disaster-prone states in the country.

Volcano hazards, though not nearly as common, still present a formidable threat to Californians.

Northern California’s Lassen Peak and Mount St. Helens, about 90 miles south of Seattle, Washington, were the only two volcanoes in the United States to erupt during the 20th century. The eruption in Lassen Peak, also commonly referred to as Mount Lassen, destroyed a 3-square-mile area and rained volcanic ash as far as 200 miles away.

In 1980, the major volcanic eruption at Mount St. Helens, caused by an earthquake weakening the north face, killed 57 people and reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland. The eruption created the largest landslide in U.S. history and was the most significant of its kind since Lassen Peak in 1915.

“More than 500 volcanic vents have been identified in the State of California. At least 76 of these vents have erupted, some repeatedly, during the last 10,000 years,” said Dan Miller of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). “Sooner or later, volcanoes in California will erupt again, and they could have serious impacts on the health and safety of the State’s citizens as well as on its economy.”

Just last weekend, the eruption of the Bogoslof Volcano in Alaska sent a plume of ash at least 35,000 feet into the air and triggered the highest aviation alert. The volcano in the Aleutian Islands erupted at 2:16 p.m. Sunday, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, and lasted nearly an hour.

The aviation alert was initially raised to a color code of Orange before lowering to a Watch level. Clouds of ash from erupting volcanoes are a threat to jet engines, and airliners operating between North America and Asia fly into the path of the Bogoslof Volcano.

This wasn’t the first time a volcano eruption caused air travel concerns. Seven years ago in Iceland, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano sparked cancellations of tens of thousands of flights.

Below are steps to take to minimize impacts to your family and home in the event of a volcanic eruption:

  • Know where the active volcanoes are in your area and how close you are to them.
  • Review your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • Obtain proper respiratory protection such as an air purifying respirator.
  • If there are disaster warning sirens in your area be aware of what they sound like. When a volcanic eruption occurs, you’ll want and need to listen for them.
  • Create an emergency evacuation plan with your family.
  • Take into account anyone with functional and/or access needs, children, pets, and livestock.
  • Know how to turn off all utilities.
  • Create an emergency kit for your car including maps, tools, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, flares, additional non-perishable food, booster cables, sleeping bags and/or emergency blankets, and a flashlight.

Click here to learn about being prepared for volcanoes. Additional information on earthquake, tsunami and volcano programs can also be accessed here.