A portion of the glacier atop Mount Rainier in Washington State has melted,sending tons of water down the Nisqually River and causing the river levelto rise. The melt is believed to have occurred at the Kautz Glacier or thenearby Van Trump Glacier. There was no evidence of earthquake activity.

So far there have been no injuries. Park rangers and geologists plan ahelicopter flight over the 14,411-foot volcano to try to determine whatcaused the rush of water, which brought trees and rocks down with it.

“It looks like this was a smaller scale event. Most of the activity stayedwithin the park boundaries and the banks held all the debris and the water,”says Jodie Woodcock of Emergency Management.

The Nisqually River is running at four times its normal level, but isstaying within its banks. Pierce County activated its emergency operationscenter and called out its search and rescue personnel and swift water rescueteams.

“What appears to have happened is the Van Trump Glacier up there has done alarge water release and the water is kicking trees up in the campgrounds .and at this point it appears that when it all filters into the Nisqually,that the Nisqually should contain it,” says sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer.”We want everybody away from the Nisqually River, but at this point there isnothing going down through the Puyallup River or the Carbon River. So that’sgood news for the towns that are up a little bit north. We are on our way upthere and hopefully this whole incident will end with just a mess down theNisqually.”

Orting Police Chief Ron Emmons was getting ready to go to bed when he heardabout the flooding. “There was no sirens put out or anything else, just whatpeople were picking up here and there over radios or scanners or whatever.They started calling neighbors and one thing or another and the next thing Iknow I got a call at home, I was in bed and going to sleep and they said’well the mountain’s going off,'” he says. “I got out right away and startedchecking around and found out it was just some melting snow that was causinga little debris into the Nisqually, and the Nisqually, fortunately, is oneof the few rivers that doesn’t affect us at all anyhow. And so the Carbonand Puyallup are normal, and no alarms went off and everything here is fine.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, sudden releases of water from MountRainier due to glacier melts have happened 15 times before, from 1986through 1992, with at least one flood every year, usually duringexceptionally hot or rainy weather in the summer or early fall.

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