Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hurricanes are for wimps

Real men live in the shadow of killer volcanoes:

Some 5,600 years ago, the body of water we call Puget Sound had an arm that extended 30 miles inland from present-day Elliott Bay in Seattle to a point halfway between Auburn and Sumner. Today, of course, that is the Green River Valley—the narrow, flat suburban land of Kent and Renton and the industrial lowlands of South Seattle. It would be reasonable to think that this change happened gradually, but scientists have determined that most of the long-gone stretch of inland sea was transformed by a single event that created 200 square miles of land in a matter of hours, with waves of mud 20 feet to 600 feet high. Imagine a wall the consistency of wet concrete traveling up to 60 mph. This mudflow destroyed everything in its path, uprooting entire old-growth forests. It hit Puget Sound with such force and with so much material that it flowed underwater for 15 miles, maybe farther. An area of hundreds of square miles was covered with mud and debris up to 350 feet deep.

The source of that enormous mudflow, which geologists call a lahar, was Mount Rainier, about 60 miles south- southeast of Seattle. And it could happen again—maybe even tomorrow.

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy is located about 45 miles south-southeast of Seattle. But on high ground, so we'll be able to report from the scene. We promise not to whine for FEMA assistance.

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