The Coast is Toast! Or is it…?

Emma Mitchem

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Illustration by DeLeah Gill

With the constant stress of school, we often forget about things that happen in our natural world. We don’t have time to stop and smell the roses— much less think about a super volcano that is about to toast a fresh chunk of America. Many are not aware of the true nature of our situation, and others are in disbelief. The chaos a super-volcanic eruption would entail is colossal; a countless number of Americans would be desperately unprepared. What if the hypothetical Yellowstone Super-volcano erupts this very month? Would you freak out to know that it’s a possibility or would you just let “nature take it’s course?”

Before all, it is important to know that Yellowstone eruptions started 2.1 million years ago and operate on a cycle of 600,000 and 700,000 years. The last eruption was 664,000 years ago, which suggests that an eruption is 64,000 years overdue. In March of 2018, the Yellowstone Steamboat Geyser, one of the world’s largest geysers, began a series of eruptions for the first time since 2014. The theory of a super volcano eruption became progressively more rational, which sparked fear in Americans surrounding Yellowstone.

When the government shutdown was in effect, park rangers and other staff were unable to warn people of the possibility of a forthcoming eruption. However, an article by express.co.uk states that the eruption could take out three quarters of the country. In addition to that, it says that the farther east you go, the safer you’ll be. In the unfortunate event that an eruption happens, the entire country will plunge into a volcanic winter. A volcanic winter is a period of time where the earth tries to “cool down” after an eruption, ash and particles of rock cover the sun and makes temperature drop drastically. In addition to that, there has never been a recorded super-volcano eruption, so we can only hypothesize the results of such a devastating natural event.

If the volcano erupts, no location is totally safe from the effects of this volcanic activity. Coast to coast will be covered in humongous clouds of volcanic ash. You shouldn’t worry though, the east coast will not be as affected as the west coast. In fact, it probably won’t be affected at all. These are what are called volcanic zones; they are zones that predict the damage of the areas around the volcano. Zone 1 is called the “kill zone” because of severe pyroclastic flow and it is completely fatal. Pyroclastic flow is a dense, destructive mass of very hot ash, lava fragments, and gases ejected explosively from a volcano and typically flowing downslope at great speed. Next is Zone 2 and 3, which would have to be evacuated prior to an eruption. Heavy ash fall will collapse buildings, contaminate water, and poison vegetation. Power and telephone lines will break and roads will be rendered useless. Zone 4 would see big amounts of ash fall, any areas with 30 centimeters or more of ash are under severe risk. The water in Zone 4 would be contaminated by sulphuric acid, making it undrinkable. In Zone 5, road transport would be delayed due to build up of ash on roads and cars would stop working because of clogged air filters. Zone 6 is the most survivable, and it may be some consultation that West Virginia is in this zone; however, it is not 100% safe. Zone 6 will see minor building damage, crop damage, and electrical and machinery damage is possible. Luckily, a majority of the East Coast, a little bit of the West coast, and parts of the Gulf Coast are in the zone.

Even though the potential eruption is nerve-wracking, there’s no cause for concern. Although unlikely, the worst case scenario would be a shortage of food and water. The West is the place that will be majorly affected. It’s going to happen someday, so we should be ready for it if it happens in the near future. After all, it’s only a matter of when, not if.