Question: If a lahar occurs, and you are living in a valley area downhill from the volcano, do you:
a) Stay where you are at.
b) Run away from the molten lava down to the river.
c) Go uphill?
Stay tuned; the answer might surprise you.
I took a drive the other day and also took the picture of the volcano evacuation route sign. As you can see, there is an arrow directing you where to go. This could prove handy. A lahar is an Indian name for a molten flow of mud and lava. This flow can travel from one to 15 miles a second, or as Sam Kineson might have screamed, “A SECOND!!!”
So a molten flow of smoking rock coming at you that fast would leave many confused as to what to do. Rather than run in circles, the government has provided direction signs. Rather than be confused and in a bewildered panic, you can calmly refer to the sign.
The government is not that confident in you. The government thinks that you are given a sign with a cartoon arrow, you won’t make the right choice.
There could be a town which is just downhill from the volcano. Let’s call it “Orting.” If a lahar happens, there goes Orting. What happened to Orting? Remember Orting? Why didn’t it get a full name, like “Sporting” or “Forting” or “Resorting” or “Porting”?
It is like someone just didn’t hit the first key letter on the computer typewriter and the “O” just got capitalized and no one ever bothered correcting the mistake.
This caused me to think of what other natural disasters, any of which could occur tomorrow or 4,000 years from now, for which we should begin preparing. Not far from here we have an ocean. So that could be a problem.
Here is another word: “tsunami.” What do you do when a tsunami is coming at like 400 mph? Do you:
a) Stay where you are at.
b) Run towards the ocean.
c) Dig a hole in the sand and crawl in it.
d) Run away from the ocean.
Shouldn’t someone tell us what to do?
Well, I have more good news. There is already a Tsunami Warning System. Whew!
This system comes with signs, and evacuation maps are available. So you don’t need to know whether to run towards the ocean or away from the ocean. You can simply go to your computer and type “tsunami evacuation route for Orting.” Then a map will appear and tell you what to do.
Don’t take too much time, though. Tsunami waves normally travel at about 950 kilometers per hour. That is really a lot faster than even an Olympic sprinter can run.
You won’t know where to go when a disaster happens. For you there are lahar and tsunami warning signs.
I haven’t had any special training or education on either lahars or tsunamis, but I already thought maybe, just maybe, in both cases, getting to higher ground is a good idea. Guess what? I’m right. Look at the sign. It is actually directing you to go uphill.
From my limited review of these signs, it appears that the answer is always to go uphill, because the signs have an arrow pointing up. If you don’t have a helicopter or hot air balloon, the most obvious meaning is that you need to walk, climb or ride to higher ground.
The next tricky job for government is what do we do in the event of an asteroid. Russian scientists have already cried out for action after a space object startled residents of the southern Ural Mountain region.
Vladimir Lipunov, head of the Space Monitoring Laboratory with Moscow State University, said it was “high time Russia should start heavily investing in building an advanced space danger monitoring and warning system.”
That is so obvious. I am sure that someone is putting in an application for a large government grant for asteroid warning signs. But I’m not sure that the arrows would point uphill.
The thinking on these issues hasn’t gone far enough, in my opinion. Zombies, vampires? And do you really think only rocks come from outer space? What are we doing about space aliens?
Excuse me: “undocumented space beings” is more politically correct.Scott Candoo, a Tacoma attorney, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on these pages. He and his wife, Susan, live in the North End. Email him at Scottc51@nventure.com.