What Are the Chances of Surviving the
Mammoth Yellowstone Eruption?

By Lee Crain

Yellowstone Supervolcano

If you live in the American West, the ever present (although rare) danger of the Yellowstone caldera exploding is simply a fact of life. It's been a while since it's exploded so it's probably coming due again.

Most people that watch the science and documentary programs on this phenomenon are simply resigned to their fate: If the caldera explodes, they are doomed. Not me.

I've paid close attention to the details regarding how the catastrophe is likely to occur, the projections for damage over adjacent geographic areas, how long it will last, and the particular characteristics of the disaster that will kill people.

The most immediate dangers occur during and for a few days after the initial explosion, primarily from volcanic ash.

Volcanic ash can and will kill you in specific ways:

It is primarily silica rock that is quite dense and, under a microscope, as sharp as glass. These two characteristics of volcanic ash produce two primary and immediate threats:

  1. The weight of the falling ash will collapse your home/shelter.
  2. If your home collapse does not kill you outright, the subsequent lack of shelter and continued exposure to breathing volcanic ash will.

A Plan for Survival

My wife and our cats live south of Yellowstone by hundreds of miles. In the event of a major eruption, we will likely be on the edge of some of the worst ash fallout but not directly under it. This fact may give us a chance to survive if we can do one thing: keep our home intact.

I think that without shelter, little else will ensure anyone's survival, so our number one priority is to save our house from collapse due to the weight of volcanic ash on the roof.

The second priority is not to breathe the ash nor get it into our eyes. If we can keep our house intact, we will have solved both priorities, maintaining shelter and not inhaling ash.

So, how to save our house?

The plan and answer is to keep removing ash fallout from our roof until the ash storm is over. I've acquired several things that may give us a chance to do this:

  • A ladder to get me onto the roof.
  • Boots that will allow me to get good traction while walking on the roof and the ash.
  • A security rope to be tied about my waste should I slip and start to slide/fall.
  • Industrial grade respiratory filters that will filter out just about anything, even airborne chemicals and nuclear fallout.
  • Military grade eye protection goggles.

Will this really work?

Maybe. I don't know. But it is a plan and it beats huddling inside our home waiting to die because evacuation is not a realistic plan for survival.

Hopefully, we will never have to test this plan. But if we do, we may be the only few of over a million people in this area that survive the calamity. The aftermath, with possibly feet of ash rained down on everything, will be absolute desolation:

  • no plant life,
  • no animals,
  • no food,
  • no sources of water anywhere nearby.

If the projections for ash fallout are correct, I seriously doubt that we could even drive out of our geographic area to safety, maybe not even a year after the event.

No, we are most likely here for the duration of the calamity. We have already prepared ourselves for other calamities with about one year’s worth of supplies: food, water, fuel, backup electricity, equipment, and more. We are prepared to survive living inside our home for one year.

After that, who knows.

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