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Three earthquakes shook Wyoming Sunday

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Three earthquakes shook Wyoming Sunday, 8 December. The three ranged from a 3.2 to a 4.2. None were very deep. The first two were just 14km ESE of Hoback. The last one was 14 miles E of Hoback.

Hoback is a small town located along Route 89 by Snake River in Teton County. Less than 2,000 people call Hoback home. It is just south of Yellowstone National Park, 73.5 miles by car.


Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in America. It is impressive. As thousands of tourists camp out and visit in the Park each year, many are entranced by the bison and elk, by Old Faithful, by the geysers. It is so easy, standing there in awe of this natural beauty, to forget that Yellowstone is in fact seated on top of a live, active supervolcano!

The USGS – United States Geological Survey – defines a supervolcano as a volcano center having an eruption of magnitude 8 on the Volcano Explosivity Index (VEI). Yellowstone is not the only supervolcano in the US. The USGS also includes Long Valley in California as a supervolcano. The most recent supervolcanic eruption however happened in New Zealand. That eruption occurred 27,000 years ago at Taupo, which is located at the center of New Zealand's north island.


Admittedly, it is unlikely that Yellowstone will erupt again in our lifetime or perhaps even our children’s lifetime. Volcanoes though are difficult, if not impossible, to predict. In May 1980, Washington State residents – and the world – were taken by surprised when Mount St. Helens, which had laid dormant for so long, literally blew her top. Mount St Helen deposited ash across 11 states and left 57 people dead, according to Arthur T. Bradley’s “The Disaster Preparedness Handbook.”

Other warning signs, according to John “Lofty” Wiseman, author of SAS Urban Survival Handbook,” include:

  • Audible rumblings
  • Ash and/or gases appearing from the cone
  • Earth movement, including earthquakes
  • Pumice dust in the air
  • Acid rail
  • Rotten egg smell near rivers

Preparing for an eruption:

FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – suggests only two things in preparation: building an emergency supply kit and making a family emergency plan. Both are important in any emergency situation.

An emergency supply kit is just that. This is a kit designed to keep you safe, healthy and alive. Include non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. Include enough for you and your family. Include your daily medications and basic first aid supplies. Remember to include bottled water. FEMA suggests keeping the kit in your car in case an evacuation is ordered. FEMA also suggests including a pair of goggles and disposable breathing masks for each member of the family.

Remember when you were in elementary school and the firemen used to visit and talk about fire safety? Remember they told you to go to a certain point and wait until your teacher came to you and checked off your name? Well, think of a family emergency plan as something similar. A family emergency plan basically is a plan which essentially lists who to contact in an emergency and where the family should meet up. Consider how family members will contact each other.

During an eruption:

Evacuate the area immediately, following the order issued by local authorities. Avoid river valleys and low lying area. Be aware of mudflows. A mudflow will travel faster than you can on foot or in a vehicle. Do not try to race it or beat it across a stream or creek. Protect yourself from falling ash and debris by wearing protective clothing, dust masks, and glasses.

After an eruption:

Despite the natural instinct to rush back home afterward to gather what remains or protect your home or maybe even to see if you can sleep in your own bed, before all that, wait until local authorities inform you it is safe to return home. This announcement may be via the internet or the local news or through FEMA.

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