Puyallup prepares for future disasters
Thousands of students will take to the streets in Puyallup and Orting this month to participate in lahar evacuation drills for Volcano Preparedness Month.
More than 2,500 students from Orting School District will evacuate their schools starting around 9:30 a.m. on Friday (May 10) and follow evacuation routes to the Washington Soldiers Home. They then will walk to high ground at the Pierce County rock quarry.
The Orting School District, city of Orting, Orting Police Department, Orting Valley Fire and Rescue and Pierce County Department of Emergency Management work together to organize the exercise.
In Puyallup, 9,000 students and staff from 15 schools will evacuate from the valley to higher ground at 9:15 a.m. on May 17. Students will meet at predetermined locations at Good Samaritan Hospital, the Washington State Fairgrounds, DeCoursey Park, Shaw Road Northwest Christian and 109th Avenue near the railroad.
“During a lahar, the goal is to get to higher land. For this reason, this drill will only impact the schools in the Puyallup valley,” Puyallup School District spokesman Brian Fox said in a press release.
Students from Puyallup High School, Walker High School, Aylen and Kalles junior highs, Karshner, Maplewood, Meeker, Stewart, Spinning, and Shaw Road elementary schools, and the Advance and Summit programs will participate.
This year, the Puyallup School District is partnering with the city of Puyallup, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, Puyallup Police Department and Pierce County Department of Emergency Management to organize the exercise.
“This exercise is restricted to schools, school facilities and city staff,” Fox wrote. “The general public will not participate, and the lahar warning sirens will not activate.”
Students are encouraged to dress in layers, wear comfortable shoes and eat breakfast.
Students that are medically unable to walk will be transported by bus, Orting Superintendent Marci Shepard said in a letter to the community.
Districts ask for patience from drivers.
“Student safety will be the highest priority, and the groups will be kept off main roads and carefully guided at railroad crossings and various traffic control points,” Fox said.
Both Puyallup and Orting students participate in the lahar drills annually, being in the lahar path of Mount Rainier. Were the volcano to erupt, it would trigger lahars, volcanic mudflows that can reach 100 feet in height and travel 45 to 50 miles per hour.
The US Geological Survey is offering a community workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. on May 16 at the Puyallup Public Library. Seth Moran, USGS scientist-in-charge of the Cascades Volcano Observatory, will present updated research regarding volcanic risks to the Puyallup Valley.