The U.S. Geological Survey updated its comprehensive volcano threat list for the first time since 2005 and it named Mount Shasta among the top 5 most threatening volcanos in the United States.
The list also included 18 volcanos in the U.S. as having a “very high threat” of erupting. That list included nearby volcanos such as Lassen Volcano Center, the Long Valley Caldera in Mono County, Mount Hood and Crater Lake.
Although the list doesn’t provide much distinction from its previous list from 13 years ago, it does reaffirm the fears of Northern California residents who could see their entire lives upended if an explosive eruption came out of the 14,000 foot mountain.
The danger list is topped by Hawaii’s Kilauea, which has been erupting this year. The others in the top five are Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, along with Alaska’s Redoubt Volcano and Shasta.
Nearby Medicine Lake and Clear Lake were also named on the list as posing a “high threat” of erupting, putting them in the second tier of dangerous volcanos.
There have been 10 eruptions in California over the last 1,000 years. Scientists say Shasta has erupted an average of every 600 years, with the last significant eruption occurring in 1786. Lassen last erupted in 1914, sending an explosive cloud of ash into the air and completely altering the top of Lassen Peak. About 760,000 years ago, a super eruption occurred at what is now known as the Long Valley Caldera, erupting an astonishing 140 cubic miles of magma.
If Shasta erupted, it could put people in harm’s way in the towns of Mount Shasta, Weed Yreka and Dunsmuir. The eruption would be capable of producing pyroclastic flows or surges when they do erupt — fast-moving flows of hot ash, rock and gas sweeping down the sides of mountains.
We know that we live in an area full of volcanos and the possibility of an eruption is not a matter of “if” but “when.” That being said, unlike earthquakes, volcanic eruptions come with warning signs and any eruption should be easily forecasted by scientists, mitigating risk of injuries and fatalities for nearby residents.