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Report: Mount Rainier lahar could cause $13 billion in property damages

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on June 6, 2012 at 11:28 am with 14 Comments »
June 6, 2012 6:46 pm

UPDATE: The state Department of Natural Resources has clarified an earlier report and says its estimate for property losses that a lahar could cause in the Puyallup River Valley is $13 billion, including contents. The figure of $6 billion does not include contents.

A new state report says a volcanic mudflow from Mount Rainier – known as a lahar – could cause up to $6 billion in property losses in the Puyallup River Valley.

The study released today by the Washington Department of Natural Resources projected property damage using loss-estimating software and data on several previous lahars from Mount Rainier.

“We now have a much better estimate of the economic impact of a major lahar flowing from Mount Rainier,” said state geologist Dave Norman. “It’s not a question of if, but when, the next volcanic event will occur.”

Here’s the news release:


June 6, 2012

Mount Rainier lahar losses could reach $6 billion or more in Puyallup Valley
New DNR report examines likely scenarios for a major volcanic mudflow from nation’s most hazardous volcano

OLYMPIA – A new report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates that a volcanic mudflow (known as a ‘lahar’) from Mount Rainier could produce property losses of up to $6 billion to communities in the Puyallup Valley.

“We now have a much better estimate of the economic impact of a major lahar flowing from Mount Rainier,” said Dave Norman, Washington State Geologist and manager of the DNR Geology and Earth Resources Division.” It’s not a question of if, but when, the next volcanic event will occur.”

The DNR report, “Loss Estimation Pilot Project for Lahar Hazards from Mount Rainier, Washington,” is based on data about several previous lahars from the volcano. Using loss-estimating software developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the report projects potential property damage costs if similar mudflows occurred again on Mount Rainier’s west side, as many geologists anticipate.

Due to the weakened rocks that make up the upper west flank of Mount Rainier, the Puyallup Valley is considered highly susceptible to lahars. Lahar-related flooding has the potential to reach as far as the Commencement Bay and Elliott Bay, including the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

In concert with the report released today, DNR has produced an online interactive map that allows users to track the potential pathways of lahars from Mount Rainier. The online map and today’s report are designed to assist emergency response, mitigation planning, and community preparation for lahar-prone areas.

Mount Rainier has produced major lahars every 500 to 1,000 years and smaller flows more frequently. The most recent major lahar to reach the Puget Lowland was the Electron Mudflow about 600 years ago. It was more than 100 feet thick at the community of Electron and as much as 20 feet thick at Orting.

Lahars, which have the consistency of wet concrete, can be caused by volcanic activity when an eruption of lava or hot gasses melts a glacier. They also can be produced by avalanches and earthquakes.

The DNR study was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Web links and citation

The DNR report, “Loss Estimation Pilot Project for Lahar Hazards from Mount Rainier, Washington,” includes color maps and can be downloaded viewed online at: http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/ger_ic113_mt_rainier_lahar_hazards.pdf

The direct link to the DNR Geology Portal, including the Mount Rainier Lahar (Volcanic Mudflow) Hazards – Property at Risk map, is:


The report was produced by the DNR Division of Geology and Earth Resources. The official citation is:

Information Circular 113. Loss estimation pilot project for lahar hazards from Mount Rainier, Washington, by Recep Cakir and T. J. Walsh. 2012. 17 p.

DNR, manager and steward of state trust lands
DNR manages more than 5.7 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and aquatic lands. DNR is administered by Peter Goldmark, the 13th Commissioner of Public Lands since statehood in 1889. DNR offers technical assistance and education on a range of subjects, including forest stewardship, mining, geologic hazards, and rare plant species and ecosystems.

Leave a comment Comments → 14
  1. footballscaa says:

    It’s going to cost a lot more than that after the over-inflated loss reports are handed to the insurance companies. As we know, no disaster is too good for lying and cheating.

  2. screwybruce says:

    stop wasting money on what “ifs”. and fix what is wrong NOW!

  3. It could cost that or maybe it couldn’t. I bet a 9.0 earthquake could do a lot of damamge too….I love all these articles on gloom and doom…
    Things might happen, things could happen…what happened to facts?

  4. gonesailin06 says:

    Thank you captain obvious! Yes erupting mountains near highly populated areas cause damage that costs money. Did you have to go to college to write this!!

  5. Educator1 says:

    Only 5 billion and most of this loss could be prevented by refusing to allow building in the Lahar zone.

    Of course the people building their will not buy insurance so the rest of us can foot their los.

    Just another excuse for the county and state to force everyone not living in the flood or lahar zone to pay taxes to cover loss coverage.

  6. m9078jk3 says:

    This is an excellent place to build lots of mixed use centers (areas of high population density).When the mountain erupts the lahar will rid the area of too many people.

  7. dirtydan54 says:

    Whats the damage cost for the sky falling?

  8. puyallup_leon says:

    Notice how they didn’t mention loss of life?

  9. A lahar prone Puyallup would make it just fine for hunting and
    fishing and crops. Why don’t you hold some Senate hearings
    and dismiss any responsibility for anybody in business?

  10. sincere says:

    This is another excuse to raise taxes.Then when the disaster doesn’t happen, there will be a slush fund for many many unnessary expenditures.

  11. dirtydan54 says:

    Money. The supreme consideration and sole concern of government.

  12. skinner says:

    yep, pierce county still issue building permits, and lemmings still
    buy there,

  13. guidocarmasi says:

    I think insurance costs and fees need to be increased dramatically in the proposed sites asap. I also think legal warnings to residents of the affected area need to be made and a recommendation to evacuate the area as soon as possible. Otherwise they have no one to blame but them selves.property values in the affected sites should plummet dramatically in the next year.

  14. itwasntmethistime says:

    Sounds like they are gearing up for a hefty new tax to sell us.

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