Trial Balloon

The Volcanoes Among Us

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 19, 2010 by Dale Connelly (26 Comments)
Filed under: Monsters, Science

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The mountain is still active and has been rated the second most dangerous volcano in the U.S., after Kilauea in Hawaii.

I visited St. Helens two summers ago and was amazed at the devastation still evident 27 years after the 1980 explosion. The blast-leveled landscape extends for miles. Driving a winding mountain road while surrounded by the bleak ruins of once forested hillsides brought home to me the enormous reach and power of a volcano.

And now I read in a National Geographic article that the U.S. is the world's second most volcanic country (after Russia). We have 169 locations under observation for signs that they are about to spew molten lava, superheated air, and boulders the size of minivans. Mt. Rainier, visible on a clear day from downtown Seattle, is a volcano! And all this time I thought it was just a picturesque backdrop for the Space Needle. Even Yellowstone National Park sits atop a super volcano - something geologists on the ground noticed 40 years ago, verified when photos from space showed the outline of a massive caldera. Egads! Where AREN'T there volcanoes?

If you're willing to go back a billion years there is evidence that eruptions helped shape Minnesota. For instance, the rocks along Lake Superior's north shore are made of hardened lava. And the Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley has a beard so incredibly dark it looks like he toasted it while peering into the mouth of some bellowing inferno. What else would be big enough to toast this chin? But to find active volcanoes today, you'll have to look elsewhere - or will you? Evidently these boisterous monstrosities of nature have established a pattern of hiding in plain sight.

My nominee for a Minnesota location worth watching is the hill where the State Capitol sits. It rumbled all winter and almost erupted with a major economic blowout last weekend, but apparently the pressure has been diverted in such a way that it can continue to build and may reach a truly catastrophic level of readiness as early as next year.

Also, most summer evenings my neighbor tends a smoldering plume that he claims is a backyard fire pit, but I'm suspicious.

If the volcano next door suddenly started belching magma and you had 20 minutes to pack the car, what would you take?

Comments (26)

Good Morning, All!
Dale, i just love how you lead us down the path with what we think might be the topic of the day and then at the end the question is totally different than what i thought it might be as i read the very interesting discussion of volcanoes. thanks for that, and thanks for the always pleasant huh? when i get to the end.
volcano packing? - Steve and 10 goats in a RAV4. might be interesting.
it's another beautiful day. we're finishing the big fence today (about 20,000 sq. feet) and have a smaller one left to do next week.
Elinor, better start for Duluth and Grandma's now. the freeway construction is making it a very long trip.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | May 19, 2010 6:13 AM

Maybe it would be faster for me just to run, Barb. ;-) Perhaps we'll make plans to take the back roads. Lots of picture taking to be had on the roads less traveled.

If I had to pack in a hurry, I would grab family photos and my Polaroids and negatives. The kids would be grabbing their essentials at this point, too. Time permitting, my grandmother's jewelry and my old Haynes flute would be next to be packed.

Good morning, all!

Posted by elinor | May 19, 2010 6:20 AM

Morning Heartlanders! In the car, which unfortunately in an emergency like this is small... teenager, dogs, dog food, some peanut butter sandwiches. Maybe some scrapbooks. I'm sure the teenager will want the cell phone, the iPod and the portable CD player!

Posted by sherrilee | May 19, 2010 6:21 AM

love the flicker link. fun pictures of my fargo memories among others.
clyde is going to get you for todays obvious bait and switch.
st helenas has bben 30 years... time flies
if i had 20 minutes i would take my dogs and cats, kiis the fish good bye grab my kids. a couple of guitars the art i could grab, a few photo books, and a case of wine. and thats all i need. oh and my laptop. and thats all i need... and some cigars.. and thats all i need.... oh and a hat or two

Posted by tim | May 19, 2010 6:22 AM

i see barb already called you on the bait and switch.
st pauls capitol hill is not full of lava its just hot air.

Posted by tim | May 19, 2010 6:26 AM

Tough choices here, Dale. I'd grab my dog, my laptop (with the good speakers so I can listen to RH), my camera gear and the favorite book I've written. Do I still have time? Underwear, guitar, iPod and the five or six books I seem to be able to enjoy reading over and over.

Actually, it would be fun to run away from a lot of that stuff I've accumulated and just start fresh.

Posted by Steve in Saint Paul | May 19, 2010 6:47 AM

Good morning all. A volcano is only one of several things that could cause one to have to leave home quickly. A few years ago some bad event caused me to listen to advice on getting ready to leave quickly and I essembled some important papers in a fire proof box that could be quickly removed from the house. That is about all that I did and I am sure other preperations were recomended, but I lost interest.

I think I was supose to put some money in the fire proof box with the papers, but never did that. Maybe a survival kit of some kind should be made ready? I guess there are lots of things in the house that I would like to save, but where would I begin? Should I start making a list? I don't know. Maybe the bath room safety officer, (is his name Rafferty?), needs to give us some advice on being prepared for volcanos.

Posted by Jim | May 19, 2010 6:47 AM

Cat, cell phone, iPod, fire extinguisher, marshmallows, Carlos -- if I can get him to wake up -- otherwise, just his wallet.

Posted by Donna | May 19, 2010 6:55 AM

Computers (laptop and server - mostly because they house the largest store of photos of Darling Daughter), dog, peanut butter and bread (we can all survive on that for a bit), Grandma's solje, a few tools to build or fix things as needed, and Daughter's copy of "But Not the Hippopotamus" - a favorite from when she was tiny. Maybe "House at Pooh Corner" for good measure.

(Tim - fun to run into you last night!)

Posted by Anna | May 19, 2010 7:36 AM

Greetings! Lots of interesting factoids today, Dale. I always thought the Ring of Fire was somewhere far away and exotic -- yikes, it's right here!

In our small car I would have to fit hubby, kids, supplements, dried greens powder, cell phones, laptop, portable radio, sleeping bags, pillows, clothes, sweaters and lots of food for teenagers. Maybe pictures and important documents (if I can find them), camera and some good books. All kinds of emergency stuff I need now that I think of it ...

tim - I like your list a la The Jerk. I'm also assuming your voodoo comment at end of yesterday's blog was a compliment in a positive sense -- thank you!

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | May 19, 2010 7:36 AM

I think I'd just grab my kindle and start walking away quickly. And of course, my purse which pretty much has everything I'd need to survive for at least a week or two..or three.

Posted by patricia | May 19, 2010 7:56 AM

Okay, I guess I can start making my list of things to take in an emertency after reading the comments today. I guess I should take my lap top, but it will only work for a while without some place to plug it in. Maybe I should get one of those emergency radios that can be charged by cranking and it could also be used to charge my cell phone. Peanut butter and bread, I agree that they would be good for emergency food. There are so many things like pictures and such that I still don't know where I would start on taking that kind of stuff.

Posted by Jim | May 19, 2010 8:16 AM

I saw the bait and switch coming; Dale's my bro now; our minds are just like that--X. Mike, however, is still a mystery, an ethereal presence drifting over the St. Paul swamp bogs scaring children and raccoons alike.
I would take my wife, which would take all of the 20 minutes and more. I might, if I had a brain cloud, grab some luggage.
I did once in a fire in my father's workshop 50 years ago rescue a 150 pound anvil; but when I got it out, I realized it would not burn, so I took it back in. Then I realized that if I had it out I may as well leave it out. So I carried it back out. My mother stood and threw out each of our dozen old glass kerosene lanterns one by one onto the rocks outside the window, saying "Oh" each time one broke but kept right on throwing them. I was too busy rescuing the anvil to stop her.
elinor—a database programmer story for you, but not now.
Quote for Joanne and all really: "Because it can be measured does not mean it is significant; because it is significant, does not mean it can be measured." Einstein
Busy rest of the day working on the staff reorganization at this one-person office.

Posted by Cly de lashe de vhippe | May 19, 2010 8:30 AM

Cats, dog, husband, daughter, violin, french horn, Fish? maybe, camera and the two drawers from the jelly cupboard where I keep all our important papers, and passports.

Posted by Renee | May 19, 2010 8:41 AM

You're right, Steve, a lot of this stuff I wouldn't mind leaving!

First Husband, and photos. My favorite jeans, the guitar, the HD Radio, computer backup CD; and if time allows, my folk dance tapes, books and card file. The camera. The Hassing Orchards Apple Mead if there's room.

And yes, Patricia, a purse is a good idea!
Anna, what's a solje?
Donna, glad you remembered Carlos.
Clyde, thanks for a sample of what it would actually be like, the panic factor.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | May 19, 2010 10:00 AM

Taking a break from my one-person meeting (someone is too long-winded):
Solje is Norwegian silver jewelry. Beautiful, distinctive So how much does Anna have? Is she that rich?
Dale aint my bro no more. On air, no less, he doubted my anvil tale, which is true, every silly word of it. And I had linseed oil all over my pants too. But the fire was at that point in the crawl space in the ceiling. We quit long before the fire broke through the sheet rock. I saved lots of valuable things, but I did pass up many obvious things too, hanging right there, such as an expensive and easy to carry drill.
Fish? Why would I save the fish? I wouldn't save any other frozen foods?

Posted by Clyde | May 19, 2010 10:19 AM

i had a hard time leaving the fish but i decided it would just be a case of setting htem on the porch. i couldn't take the tanks and if i took them without the tanks it would be curtains anyway. but maybe the saltwater guys and my 10 year old catfish and thats all i need and the two chinese gold =fish that remind me of puppies and thats all.. and the coy... and the 5 bags of tea form china and thats all i need.... and my carryable musical instraments. leave the baby grand. and all my paints and brushes and thats all i need.
love the anvil story.

Posted by tim | May 19, 2010 10:55 AM

How could I NOT doubt that story?
You reminded me of my favorite occupations in all recorded songdom - Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman who tries to expose Prof. Harold Hill as a fraud in The Music Man.
Leave it to a guy who takes on the formidable job of lugging anvils from town to town to recognize and call out a liar when he hears one!

Posted by Dale Connelly | May 19, 2010 11:05 AM

Clyde is correct - solje (pronounced something more like sil-yeh) is a traditional Norwegian brooch. Usually silver, sometimes with gold spangles. Often round or with something resembling domed buttons - all have little spoon-type spangles that hang off of them (as I recall to ward off evil). They can vary by region, to match the bunad of a specific area of Norway. I have a couple that were given to me as gifts (small), and one that was actually my great-grandmother's. It is of the button/dome variety and has garnets on the dropped parts of the solje. My mom finally figured that I was grown-up enough to have it - and it had been passed down through my dad's side of the family, so she figured I had greater claim to it. She has some from her mom and that side of my Norwegian family that may eventually come my way, too.

Posted by Anna | May 19, 2010 11:25 AM

You will doubt this one, too, Dale, but I once played Carlie Cowell. I did, yes I did. I did too!! Uh-huh!! Well its the U-Needa made the trouble, made the people want to go, want to get up and go 8, 9 10 12 22 miles to the county seat, yessir, I did too.

Posted by cly de Charlie Cowell | May 19, 2010 11:39 AM


Posted by Mike Pengra | May 19, 2010 1:03 PM

Mike, walk, whacha talk?
That is fun to do and takes A LOT of rehearsal. There are not many things in musical theater as original as that piece and Trouble. One of the kids in the boys band wne to to play Harold Hill in Mason City, thge real River City Ioway.
Mike, could you play it after 8 tomorrow, the train piece (what's it called)?

Posted by Clyde | May 19, 2010 1:39 PM

Let me redo that bad typing. ATAXIA!!!
It's called Rock Island!! Had no clue. Did I know that 30 years ago?
Mike, waddaya talk? Could you play it after 8 tomorrow, after I get to the office.
One of the kids in the boys band went on to play Harold Hill in Mason City, the real River City Ioway.
My meeting broke up a few minutes ago. One of me stormed out in anger.

Posted by Cly de due | May 19, 2010 2:11 PM

Bad bad headache so my brain is randomizing all over the universe and just thought of your last post, so "So Long And Thanks for All the Fish."

Posted by Clyde | May 19, 2010 2:14 PM

Sorry, but last post was for tim of course.
So I mentioned a "brain cloud" and luggage in reference to a volcano. All you movie buffs, name the reference.

Posted by le cyd | May 19, 2010 2:18 PM

Clyde -- Joe vs the Volcano. Ta Dahhhh!!
Loved the Einstein quote. That guy must have been a Genius!

Posted by Donna | May 19, 2010 3:15 PM

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