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Feds Update Volcano Threats: West Coast Is Way Up There

Federal scientists have updated their assessment of the threat posed by the nation’s volcanos. It turns out 11 of the 18 volcanos rated at the “Very High” threat level are in Oregon, California and Washington.

The new study revises the volcano threat assessment made in 2005 in light of more recent research, as well as changing patterns of development and growth. The report looks at factors such as how likely each volcano is to erupt, how an eruption is likely to behave and how much damage that’s likely to do to the surrounding area.

Among the volcanos rated as posing “Very High” threats are Washington’s Mount St. Helens, Oregon’s Crater Lake and California’s Mt. Shasta.

Seth Moran is a seismologist with the Cascade Volcano Observatory near Portland. His advice, if you live near one of these volcanos? Don’t freak out.

“The goal is to have people aware, get through that initial freak-out phase and get to a point where their risk perception is actually pretty close to the actual risk,” he says.

For example, Moran notes that while Washington’s Mt. Baker is number 13 on the Very High Threat list, it hasn’t erupted for more than six thousand years.

The report is intended to help guide research, monitoring programs and emergency planning for dealing with the region’s rare, but inevitable, volcanic eruptions.

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