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Deceptive Beauty: Volcanoes Ready to Blow

For years, scientists have monitored volcanoes in the United States. It's important work because an active volcano can erupt at any time, quickly wiping out entire communities. Read Transcript


Reporter: THE CASCADE

MOUNTAIN RANGE LINES THE

UPPER HALF OF THE U.S. WEST

COAST.

LIKE MT. REINER AND

WASHINGTON AND MT. HOOD,

REPRESENT SOME OF AMERICA'S

GREATEST BEAUTY, ON THE

SURFACE, THAT IS.

UNDERNEATH LIES THE

DESTRUCTIVE HOT MAGMA.

THEY HAVE ERUPTED BEFORE,

AND THEY WILL ERUPT AGAIN.

AND WHEN THEY ERUPT, THEY

WILL PRESENT A VERY REAL

HAZARD TO THE PEOPLE WHO

LIVE NEARBY.

Reporter: THIS IS ALSO

HOME TO MT. ST. MOUNT ST.

HELENS, A VOLCANO THAT

EXPLODED VIOLENTLY IN

MINUTES.

IT TOOK THE LIVES OF 57

PEOPLE, CAUSING HUNDREDS OF

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN

DAMAGE, AND DESTROYED EVERY

LIVING THING WITHIN 230

SQUARE MILES.

STILL A DANGER TODAY, MT.

SAINT HELENS IS CONSIDERED

THE MOST ACTIVE.

Reporter: THE MASSIVE

EXPLOSION PUT VOLCANO

MONITORING ON THE

FAST-TRACK.

AT THE TIME, THERE WAS ONLY

ONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY IN

THE ENTIRE U.S.

TODAY THERE ARE FIVE.

Reporter: THEY CAN BE

FOUND IN YELLOWSTONE

NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA,

ALASKA, HAWAII, AND HERE IN

THE CASCADES.

BECAUSE ST. HELLENS

CONTINUED TO ERUPT ON AND

OFF UNTIL 1986, IT BECAME A

LABORATORY FOR SCIENTISTS

AND ENGINEERS TO DEVELOP THE

COMPUTER SOFTWARE, THE ALGOR

GOR RHYTHM TO PROCESS THE

INFORMATION.

Reporter: HE GAVE CBN A

LOOK AT THE TECHNOLOGY

MONITORING MT. SAINT HELENS,

AND THE OTHER 168 ACTIVE

VOLCANOS.

WHAT THESE INSTRUMENTS

ALLOW US TO DO IS LOOK AT

DATA IN REALTIME, AND GET

THE DATA TO OUR COLLEAGUES

SO WE CAN BUILD A MORE

COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF WHAT

THE VOLCANO IS DOING DURING

REST.

Reporter: SCIENTISTS

WATCH THREE SIGNS DURING

ERUPTIONS, HOW MUCH THE

VOLCANO IS SHAKING, IF IT IS

SWELLING OR CHANGING SHAPE

BECAUSE OF THE MAGMA PUSHING

ON ITS SIDES, AND THE AMOUNT

OF VOLCANIC GASSES IT IS

SENDING OUT.

IT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE

ULTIMATELY VOLCANO GASSES

FORM THE ERUPTION.

Reporter: TODAY'S

EQUIPMENT IS PORTABLE.

ALLOWING IT TO GO WHERE

PEOPLE CANNOT.

TAKE, FOR INSTANCE, THE

SPIDER.

IT IS REALLY NICE BECAUSE

WE SET IT DOWN WITH THE

HELICOPTER, AND WE HAVE A

REALLY HIGH SIGNAL WITHOUT

ALL OF THE NOISE FROM TOWNS

AND SUCH.

Reporter: THAT NOISE

GETS CLOSER, HOWEVER, AS THE

DECEPTIVELY PICTURESQUE

SCENERY LURES NEW RESIDENTS,

LEADING TO THE GROWTH OF

TOWNS AND POPULATION

CENTRES.

IN THE CASCADES, THE ONE

WE WORRY ABOUT THE MOST IS

MT. RAINIER BECAUSE OF THE

PEOPLE LIVING IN THE

VALLEYS.

Reporter: LOOK AT ALL

OF THE HOMES AT THE BASE OF

MT. RAINIER.

IF YOU THINK THEY ARE SAFE,

THINK AGAIN.

AN ERUPTION CAN SEND DEADLY

MUD FLOWS, FILLED WITH ROCK

AND SAND, AT A GREAT

DISTANCE, DESTROYING

EVERYTHING IN

THEIR

PAST.

HE BELIEVES LAHAR BROUGHT

THIS BOLDER, AFTER IT LAST

ERUPTED 200 YEARS AGO.

JUST ACROSS THE STREET, A

POPULATION CENTER.

HE INTERPRETS THIS AS A

WARNING, THAT WHAT HAPPENED

IN THE PAST CAN HAPPEN

AGAIN.

I DIDN'T SEEN THE

ERUPTION OF MT. SAINT HELENS

IN THE 1980s, BUT I WAS AT

THE

ERUPTION OF MT. PINATU.

AND IT WAS SO MUCH BIGGER

AND FASTER THAN ANYTHING I

HAD EVER SEEN.

Reporter: I'M HERE IN

THE TOWN OF GOVERNMENT CAMP,

WHICH IS ONLY ABOUT FIVE

MILES FROM THE SUMMIT OF

MT. HOOD.

WHEN SCIENTISTS DETERMINE

THE RISK OF A PARTICULAR

AREA, THEY MOST DEFINITELY

CONSIDER DEVELOPMENTS LIKE

THIS, WHICH ARE SO CLOSE TO

THE MOUNTAINS.

SOME OF THE HIGHEST

VOLCANOS WE HAVE IN THE

UNITED

STATES, THE MAJORITY

OF

THE HIGHEST THREAT

VOLCANOS, BECAUSE WE HAVE SO

MANY PEOPLE AND

INFRASTRUCTURE NEARBY.

Reporter: AND THAT,

ACCORDING TO YORK, PUTS THE

PRESSURE ON FOR GREATER

ACCURACY AND PREDICTIONS.

AND SCIENTISTS ALSO URGE

RESIDENTS TO CONSIDER

POTENTIAL HAZARDS, EVEN

HIDDEN ONES, BEFORE CHOOSING

WHERE THEY LIVE.

MARK MARTIN, CBN NEWS, THE

PACIFIC NORTHWEST.

EMBED THIS VIDEO

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