A 3.1 magnitude earthquake was registered near the Old Faithful geyser. It occurred at 10:32 p.m. local time yesterday (Monday, 31 March). Seismologists referred to it as a “minor earthquake.” Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence at Yellowstone National Park but Sunday’s quake is the biggest recorded since February of 1980. On Sunday, a 4.8 earthquake shook Yellowstone. It was felt mildly by some and Reuters quoted a West Yellowstone police dispatcher as confirming items fell off shelves at the local grocery store. However, there were no reported injuries, confirmed Yellowstone’s Public Affairs Chief Al Nash.
For months now, geologists have been watching and tracking an area where an uplift has been noticed. The quake on Sunday did occur near this uplift and the increase in tectonic activity has gained the attention of scientists, preppers and the general public alike.
The Park is the oldest national park in America. It is an impressive land by any standard, something the three million annual visitors could attest to easily. Comprising almost 3,500 square miles, Yellowstone is physically in three states: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming! It is home to wildlife and geysers, like Old Faithful. It is also home to a 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).
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The supervolcano, known as the Caldera, has long been a source of speculation, study and wonder. The USGS defines a caldera as a “A large basin-shaped volcanic depression with a diameter many times larger than included volcanic vents.” It can range in size from two km to 50 km across and is often formed when magma is erupted from a shallow underground reservoir and collapses into a crater like formation. Composed of basalt and rhyolite, the Caldera at Yellowstone last erupted 640,000 years ago. Basalt is a dark colored volcanic rock. It contains silica, iron and magnesium. Rhyolite is colored volcanic rock. It contains silica, potassium and sodium.
Admittedly, it is unlikely that the Caldera – the supervolcano – in Yellowstone will erupt in our lifetime or perhaps even our children’s lifetime. However there is no way to predict – with any certainty – when a particular volcano will erupt.
“We have seen no signs to suggest that the Yellowstone volcano is about to erupt,” said Nash in a YouTube video this week.
In May 1980, Washington State residents were surprised when the then seemingly dormant Mount St. Helens 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.”
There are some warning signs. According to John “Lofty” Wiseman, author of SAS Urban Survival Handbook,” warning signs are:
- 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 having an emergency supply kit (also referred to as bug out bags or BOB) 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.
An emergency family plan should include how to contact each other and where to meet up. Remember your pets in your planning. Include an out of area contact who can can keep tabs – for lack of a better phrase – of everyone and help coordinate your family efforts to reunite should you get separated.