Tungurahua Volcano, The Day The Earth Moved
The Latin American country of Ecuador is home to some of South America’s most famous and active volcanoes. Almost daily, in some part of this beautiful country, one or another of its active volcanoes spews smoke and ash out into the atmosphere of this country severely troubled by its many other problems as well, especially shortages of commodities from every day groceries to medicines. Supplies are in short supply throughout the country.
One of Ecuador’s more memorable volcanic eruptions occurred on February first, 2014. That afternoon around 5:30 p.m., (local time) an increase in activity became noticeable as darkening clouds of ash rose more and more ominously into the deep blue of the late afternoon sky.
Within a very short period of time, the heavy thick clouds of ash had spread over the sky above covering it as they rose to some thirteen kilometers. Cities as far away as Guayaquil and Quito felt and saw the effects of the eruption.
Tungurahua, from the Quechua term that calls the volcano the “throat of Fire”, gives its name to the province of Tungurahua in which it dominates the skyline.
Although remaining dormant for a considerable time, Tungurahua began showing signs of restlessness in August, 1999 and since that time, its activity level has continued to be a concern not only to seismologists but to local inhabitants as well. An earlier eruption with pyroclastic flows in 1999 created a great deal of ash and more than 25,000 locals from the area around Baños had to be evacuated.
Activity inside the volcano has increased in recent years, growing ever more disturbing. It reached a peak on February 1, 2014 when about five in the later afternoon, Thick heavy ash began spewing from the crater, rising rapidly into the skies above and traveling as far as the province of Loja near the Peruvian border. On that Saturday, a series of explosions began, beginning with two moderate explosions and these were followed by a massive explosion. With smoke and ash rising five miles into the sky flowing lava reached the Acupashal Mountain Pass blocking the route to the town of Baños, according to local authorities.
Although authorities declared an orange alert, orange being next to the highest alert, Hermuy Calle, at the time, president of Emergency Operations, assured the press that the activity was “simply a release of inner pressure” and he did not expect the volcanic activity to increase in the hours ahead.
Although for a time the ash appeared to be aimed directly at the city of Quito, prevailing easterly winds managed to push the wave of ash aside holding the ash at bay and saving the city from the massive cleanup job this heavy, ash (similar to ground glass and extremely caustic to paint, glass, and of course life itself).
So far, man has not discovered a way to neutralize volcanoes and our best hope is the continuing technological progress in monitoring the approach of volcanic activity and warning the public.