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It’s Been 34 Years Since Mt St Helens Erupted

May 16, 2014

Mt St HelensOn May 18th, 1980, Mt St Helens in central Western Washington erupted with the force of a 20-megaton bomb. Fifty-seven people died in the wake of the blast, and in the following weeks the ash circled its way around the globe. Approximately 40,000 insurance claims were filed in the following few days, and the eruption caused about $27 million in insured losses.

While scientists don’t know when, they do all seem to agree that Mt St Helens will erupt again. The 34th anniversary of the eruption is on Sunday and serves as a great reminder to know what your insurance policy most likely covers and doesn’t cover.

  • Most Homeowners insurance policies do cover property losses caused by volcanic eruptions. This includes damage that results from the blast, shockwaves, dust, and lava.
  • In general, Automobile policies also cover volcanic eruptions if you purchase Comprehensive coverage. Keep in mind that this covers direct, sudden damage to your car, and not any wear and tear items that build up over time. Insurance does not usually cover wear and tear on most things.
  • Landslides resulting from a volcano are not generally covered. It’s considered a type of “earth movement” and insurance typically excludes this unless you buy separate coverage.
  • Flood damage is not normally covered unless you purchase flood separately. When Mt St Helens erupted, the mud and debris flooded the Toutle River, so it can and does happen.

Mt St Helens isn’t the only active volcano in Washington, and it certainly isn’t the only active one in the United States. Mt Rainier is due for an eruption, according to some, and many communities surrounding the mountain have preparation plans in place. So what to do if Mt Rainier or another volcano erupts?

  • Listen to emergency broadcasts. If they tell you to evacuate, don’t Mt Rainierhesitate – leave the area as soon as possible. The eruption itself isn’t the only danger. Historically, lahars from Mt Rainier eruptions have flowed as far away as Tacoma and the Puget Sound.
  • Protect yourself from ash and dust. Masks are best, but if none are available use a damp cloth to protect your nose and mouth. Goggles will help protect your eyes. Keep in mind that ash can travel for long distances. Pullman, in eastern Washington, experienced almost nighttime visibility conditions after Mt St Helens erupted.
  • If you are not evacuated but receive ash fall from an eruption, be sure to clear it from your roof. Ash can be extremely heavy and cause collapse. Make sure you’re properly covered up and protected, as it can be a skin irritant and cause breathing issues.

The mountains surrounding Seattle make this area one of the most beautiful in the country, but like with any force of Mother Nature, we should always be prepared.

Article by: Kristen Skinner

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