Dust in the wind
Recent activity by the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in Iceland and the anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption has brought the effects of volcanic eruption to the forefront of the news. Volcanoes impact the earth in many ways, but volcanic ash and dust can create myriad problems once they hit the atmosphere.
During the past few thousand years, the volcanoes of the Cascade Range to our west have erupted more than 100 times. Ash from the 1980 Mt. Saint Helens eruption
rose to a height of 60,000 feet and covered an area of 22,000 square miles. Plummer, Idaho, received one inch of ash from that eruption. Our location gives us reason to learn to prepare for and respond to volcanic ash fall.
Volcanic ash facts
Volcanic ash is actually small jagged pieces of rocks, minerals and volcanic glass the size of sand and silt.
Ash can irritate eyes and cause respiratory problems in people and animals.
Ash can clog or abrade engines, gears and other forms of machinery.
Additionally, it may contaminate or clog ventilation, water supplies and drains.
Volcanic ash does not dissolve in water and is mildly corrosive.
When wet, volcanic ash conducts electricity and can cause electrical short circuits. Transmission lines, computers and other electronic devices can be affected. Often the power goes out during or even after an ash fall.
Three quick preparedness steps
1. Store at a minimum three days water and non-perishable food in your home for all the family members, including pets. Have a back-up method for preparing food if the power is out (camp stove, grill etc.)
2. Add N-95 rated facemasks and goggles to your disaster supply kit to protect against respiratory problems and eye abrasion. Add enough plastic wrap to the kit to wrap the critical electronics in the home.
3. Battery - or crank-powered radios for communications and flashlights/lanterns for light will be needed. If you are using battery-powered units, make sure to keep an ample supply of spare batteries.
A well stocked disaster supply kit has many more items in it than the few mentioned above; for a detailed look at what should be in a kit go to: http://www.accem.org/pdf/kit.pdf
Actions to take during and after an ash fall
Close all doors, windows and dampers in the home. Seal drafty windows with tape. Place damp rolled towels at the threshold of exterior doors to prevent ash from blowing in at the bottom of the door.
Wear long sleeves and pants when in contact with the ash. Protect your eyes with goggles and your lungs with an N-95 mask. When entering your home from outside, remove ash covered clothing and shoes.
Wet ash is very heavy; most roofs cannot support more than four inches of ash. Keep the roof and house hold gutter systems as clear as possible. Ash is very slick, be careful on ladders and on the roof.
Inside the home dust often using a vacuum and attachments. Dust cloths can become abrasive. Keep sensitive electronics wrapped and unplugged until all ash/dust can be removed.
If possible, do not drive in ash as it is harmful to vehicles. If you must drive, do not exceed 35 mph. Change oil, oil filters and air filter every 50-100 miles in heavy dust; every 500-1,000 miles in light dust.
For more information on Volcano Preparedness go to:
View ACCEM newsletter in PDF format
Ada City –County Emergency Management
7200 Barrister Drive
Boise, ID. 83704
FAX (208) 577-4759