Geologists are worried about the possible danger of Mt. Rainier. This mountain has been referred to as a time bomb which could erupt unexpectedly. Because it is close to major population centers, it is considered the most dangerous mountain in the US.
According to scientists, it is certain that this volcano will erupt at some point which would bring death to tens of thousands of Americans. But how many people would die after a full-blown eruption?
Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18th in 1980. The eruption was as strong as the impact of 500 Hiroshima bombs. However, if Mount Rainier erupted with the same power, the losses would be immense. Area around Mount Rainier is heavily populated and about 150,000 people live on top of old lahar deposits of Rainier. Geologist with a Washington State Geology firm, Geoff Clayton, stated that mudflow would destroy Enumclaw, Orting, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Sumner and all of Renton. Even parts of Duwamish estuary, Seattle, Puget Sound and Lake Washington are in danger of this eruption.
Lahars can be described as the tsunami of super-heated thick mud that is traveling at highway speeds and can be extremely deadly. Scientist stated that Mount Rainier is able to generate massive lahars that travel 50 miles per hour.
As Mount Rainier is surrounded with a lot of ice, heat from an eruption will melt it and cause the mudslides that can reach up to 50 mph. This mud could be more than 400 feet deep in nearby valleys.
The Osceola Mudflow which happened 5,600 years ago is one of the largest debris flows. It enclosed 212 square miles of land from Rainier to Kent and was hundreds of feet deep.
In case lahar is released, hundreds of thousands of people must be evacuated in less than an hour.
In case of such catastrophic scenario, towns and cities in the area would be totally wiped out by super-heated mud. Lahar could cover Orting, Sumner, Buckley, and Enumclaw in 30 feet of mud in less than half an hour. Other areas could be in danger, such as Auburn, Puyallup and Tacoma.
Scientists describe such catastrophic scenario as unavoidable, so the eruption of Mount Rainier would be the worst natural disaster in U.S.
And it will continue for several hours as no one will be able to stop it.
It has been reported that Mount Rainier has formed about 60 lahars up to now. It has been estimated that chances of a lahar in our lifetimes is one in seven.
Moreover, Mount Rainier is located along the Ring of Fire and all volcanoes along are waking up. So far, 41 volcanoes are currently active and erupting.
Earthquakes will occur prior to eruption of Mount Rainier. During the past few months, 20 earthquakes occurred in the general vicinity.