This Sunday; Mexico raised the alert level for a volcano in the center of the country that has been spewing ash and smoke at accelerating levels since about May 15, resulting in officials closing schools and public parks, as locals prepare for the possibility of evacuating.
Ash from Popocatépetl volcano, which is in a central part of the country, has delayed flights in Mexico City and led authorities to close schools in dozens of municipalities.
Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport (AICM) was temporarily closed on Saturday and some flights were delayed on Monday due to the presence of volcanic ash, according to airport authorities.
“Air travelers may continue to experience additional flight delays, cancellations, or temporary airport closures with little or no warning,” according to US embassy in Mexico. The embassy also issued a warning on Saturday saying the Popocatépetl volcano “has exhibited increased activity since May 15, registering hundreds of tremors and smoke and ash exhalations.” Recommendation is that people not travel within a 7.5 mile radius of the volcano, according to warnings from local authorities.
In – person classes have been suspended in schools across 40 municipalities in Puebla, five municipalities in the state of Mexico and seven in Tlaxcala.
Popocatépetl (pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til), referred by the people to as a god of rain, the heartbeat of the community, (correlated with his volcanic counterpart the sleeping ‘Woman in White’ Ixtaccíhuatl) was quiet for decades before it became active in the 1990s. A major eruption in the year 2000 caused the evacuation of about 50,000 people from the region.
“In the case of Mexico City, the risk is ash fall. We are prepared for that scenario and we know what to do. Let’s stay alert,” Mexico city’s mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said via Twitter on Sunday.
Around 25 million people live within a 60-mile radius of the volcano, which is about 45 miles southeast of Mexico City between the states of Morelos, Puebla and state of Mexico.
Additionally the CNPC warns of increased volcanic activity plus the dispersion of ash into several nearby towns. Outdoor activities are best avoided for residents of the area at this time.
Laura Velázquez Alzúa, the head of the center, stated at a news conference on Sunday that when an alert level is raised to Phase 3, it is “possible for a volcano to produce mild to moderate explosions that can hurl fragments of rock, cause ash to fall in surrounding areas, and disrupt air travel.” Along with ash, it’s possible that magma will also be expelled according to the center.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said at a news conference on Monday morning that he was in contact with federal and local officials about the volcano, adding that it was being monitored constantly.
“We are standing by,” Mr. López Obrador said in Spanish.
The disaster prevention center said that authorities in the area surrounding Popocatépetl were preparing evacuation teams and shelters, and that local and state officials were also planning to tour evacuation routes on Monday.
“We need to be perfectly sure that our evacuation routes and signs are correct,” Ms. Velázquez Alzúa said.
Popocatépetl (pronounced poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til), sometimes referred to as a god of rain or the community’s heartbeat, was quiet for decades before it became active in the 1990s. In 2000, a major eruption prompted the evacuation of about 50,000 people from the region. Since then, mild to moderate activity from the volcano has prompted officials to occasionally raise alert levels.
A time-lapse video that the center shared on social media on Monday showed the volcano spewing smoke and ashes in the early morning.
On Monday afternoon, officials suspended operations at Hermanos Serdán International Airport, a small facility in Puebla, because of ash on the runways.
Officials said at a news conference on Sunday that the state of Puebla, which includes a portion of the volcano, had set up 35 shelters with space for up to 22,000 people if evacuations were needed.
Puebla state officials also said on Sunday that, to minimize the risk of exposure to falling ash, several public parks in the area would be closed and schools would hold classes virtually for the time being.
The National Disaster Prevention Center urged residents who live near the volcano to avoid going outdoors as much as possible. Those who do go outside should wear a face mask or cover their nose and mouth with a handkerchief, the center said.
A volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Jessica Ball, said “it is normal for active volcanoes, such as Popocatépetl, to go through cycles of increased activity.”
“That is pretty much just part of being an active volcano,” she said. “There’s really no cycle on a human time scale that governs which volcanoes erupt at which time.”
The center says residents should cover water containers to avoid contamination from falling ash, and sweep the ash and collect it in bags.
At Monday’s conclusion it remained unknown how long this period of raised volcanic activity will continue. The volcano had been dormant for decades until it erupted in 1994. Since then, its constant rumblings have become a part of daily life for locals of the region.
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Besides Popocatepetl and Etna which is also quite active right now, there are several others around the world that are active today, and a really good website to monitor and watch activity in real time can be found here:
In addition, and this is scary, they have learned that the huge volcanic explosion last year in Tonga disrupted satellites half a world away…
7 miles is nothing in volcano world!
This blast, traveling at speeds of up to 1,072 km/hr (670 mi/hr), quickly overtook the landslide and extended to up to 30.4 km (19 mi) from the volcano. In the areas closest to the volcano and up to about 13 km (8 mi) away the blast destroyed everything-trees, houses, wild life, etc.