Residents of Hawaii’s Big Island were caught completely unprepared for dangers from the Kilauea Volcano that included toxic gases, ash, and power-grid blackouts.
Only one store in the town of Pahoa just a few miles from Kilauea sells respirator masks needed to protect residents from the dangerous dust, smoke, and toxic gases created by the eruption, KITV ABC 4 reported. The phones at Pahoa Auto Parts rang for 14 hours straight on May 11 as desperate residents searching for masks called.
Most of the callers and shoppers went empty handed because the masks sold out almost instantly, manager Mike Metcalf revealed. Cartridges needed to make the respirator masks were also sold out increasing the danger.
Toxic Air is the Deadliest Threat from Volcanoes
A respirator mask is a must-have during a volcanic eruption because the greatest dangers are in the air.
Toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide were spewing out of 21 fissures around Kilauea, CNN reported. Sulfur dioxide can burn lungs, eyes and the skin. It can also cause serious health problems for people with asthma, and breathing troubles. Children are at greater risk from sulfur dioxide poisoning than adults.
The air quality around Kilauea was so bad the County of Hawaii issued a Condition Red air quality alert and ordered residents to leave on May 14. Sulfur dioxide is not the only danger in the air around volcanos. The Shrub Mud Volcano in Alaska released another poisonous gas: carbon monoxide, into the air during eruptions in the 1990s. Eruptions can spew out deadly hot ash and dust. Autopsies revealed that most of the people killed by the 1980 eruption of Oregon’s Mt. Helens died by directly breathing in hot ash. Those people might have survived had they worn respirators.
Lava can set off wildfires that create smoke and extremely unhealthy air quality. Fires are one of the greatest dangers from volcanoes because they move a lot faster than lava.
Manmade gases are also a threat, with lava from Kilauea threatening the Puna Geothermal Venture, a power plant that uses geothermal steam to make electricity, Science Alert reported. The fear is that quakes and lava triggered by Kilauea will release 60,000 gallons of toxic and flammable chemicals stored at the plant. This means that any industrial, military or commercial facility near a volcano is a potential threat.
Everyone who lives near a volcano needs to keep respirator masks and cartridges on hand. It is also a good idea to have a backup electricity source because volcanic eruptions can damage, destroy, or shutdown electric power plants and lines as is happening in Hawaii.
There are 169 Active Volcanoes in America
Many Americans outside of Hawaii live with the danger of volcanoes. There are 169 active volcanoes in the United States the US Geographic Survey (USGS) reported. Contrary to popular belief many of those volcanoes have erupted within the past 200 years.
There are 19 volcanoes in the state of Oregon alone. The most dangerous of those Mount Hood, just 75 miles south of Portland, last erupted in 1866.
The Mount Lassen Volcano in Shasta County in Northern California last erupted in 1917 or 101 years ago. Lassen is considered the sixth most dangerous volcano in the United States by the USGS, The Portland Oregonian reported. The second most dangerous volcano in the United States is Mount Rainier just South of Seattle and Tacoma, which last erupted in 1894.
The most dangerous volcano in the Mainland United States is Mount Saint Helens in Oregon which last erupted in 2005. 57 people were killed and 250 homes were destroyed by an eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980, just 38 years ago. Disturbingly, many of those people died because they refused to obey an order to evacuate.
Is There a Volcano in Your Neighborhood?
There are 10 volcanos in the mainland United States that the USGS lists as “very high threats.” Those high-threat volcanoes are: Lassen, Long Valley and Mount Shasta in California; Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Glacier Peak in Washington State, Mount Hood, Mount Newberry, Crater Lake, and the South Sister in Oregon.
The Yellowstone Super Volcano in Wyoming is listed as a high threat volcano by the USGS. Also named high threats are Clear Lake, Inyo Craters, Medicine Lake, and the Mono Craters in Northern California and Mount Adams in Washington State.
The volcano danger in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest is far greater than most people believe. The USGS has identified moderate threat volcanos in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. There are also low threat volcanoes in Idaho.
If you want to see if there is a volcano in your neighborhood, the USGS’s list of America’s active volcanos is available in PDF format here: https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1164/2005-1164.pdf
There are many places online where you can buy emergency respirator masks and cartridges. A quick internet search can find emergency respirators for as little as $12.68 on websites like Amazon.
Are You Unprepared?
Are you prepared for threats specific to the area you live in? Sadly, most Americans are not. Learn from this incident. Don’t wait. Be smarter than your “sheeple” neighbors. Buy the supplies and gear you need to survive now. Once an emergency like this one in Hawaii occurs, it’s almost always too late.