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What Would You Do If Yellowstone Blew?

Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Brad Duddleston snowshoes near Old Faithful February 10, 2001 in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

According to Ilya Bindeman, an associate professor of geological sciences at the University of Oregon, Yellowstone has erupted at least three times over the past 2 million years.

“Yellowstone is one of the biggest supervolcanos in the world,” he says. “Sometimes it erupts quietly with lava flow, but once or twice every million years, it erupts very violently, forming large calderas,” which are very large craters measuring tens of miles in diameter.

That’s not 10 miles in diameter that tens of miles.

However, the National Science Foundation-funded scientist doesn’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon — at least not for another one to 2 million years.

Whenever scientists predict that something isn’t going to happen — that’s my clue to pack my bags and get the heck out of Dodge.

What Would I Do?

My recliner faces south. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if I saw that mushroom looking smoke cloud headed my way from Yellowstone.

Depending on the severity of the eruption, I’d probably have just enough time to tell the wife and dogs I love them before being vaporized or buried in burning ash.

If it only made it to Big Sky there might be a slim chance of getting on a northern highway but falling ash could make that a real problem with the intake system of our van.

If it only took out West Yellowstone and Gardiner then we might have a shot at getting to safety but probably would still lose the house.

Advanced Warning?

If the evidence of an impending eruption was known beforehand, like Houston and Florida, then an evacuation of southwestern Montana could be possible.

But wait…weather. What if this happened in the dead of winter? Depending on what time of year this eruption took place, the snow-packed passes could stop the bulk of an evacuation cold, no pun intended.

Slick highways and stupid drivers could make a catastrophic event even worse. The fact that everyone would have saved their handguns, rifles and shotguns could turn Montana highways into shooting galleries and give new meaning to road rage.

Some Final Thoughts

When Mt. St. Helen’s erupted many homes were buried under several feet of ash. If there was a full-blown eruption of Yellowstone much of the US would be covered in ash. Agriculture would be devastated for years.

Population loss would be minimal since we are in a sparsely populated area.

Communication and power for the entire West could be interrupted. We would be vulnerable to attack from that little Korean guy.

I guess I want to be an optimist rather than a pessimist and hope that the educated professor is correct in his analysis.

I do feel sorry for those living here 2 million years from now. But you have been warned.

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