Richmond has risen yet again on the annual ranking of U.S. cities most likely to experience a volcanic eruption, a study said today.
The report by the U.S. Geological Survey proves what Richmond officials have long feared: that city residents are in grave danger of being swept away or instantly turned to ash in a river of hot magma spewing from the top of Mount Kings Dominion.
The report placed Richmond up three spots to No. 3 behind Hilo, Hawaii and its Mauna Loa volcano. An eruption here could come sometime in the next 50 years, the USGS said, with ashen smoke rising as high as 155 feet at the volcano’s peak before a heart-stopping 55-degree inverted-loop freefall to the ground.
“It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but rather ‘when,'” said Shana Reudiger, a geoscientist who surveyed the Richmond region in the report. She recommended that area residents, in addition to locking doors at night, make sure sandbags are adequately stacked around homes to protect from lava flows, which can move at speeds topping 70 miles per hour on the volcano’s 80-foot drop.
“It is best to err on the side of caution with this volcano,” Reudiger said, “especially for residents under 54 inches in height.”
The last major volcanic eruption in Richmond came in 1997, when a blast hurled rocks, debris and 16 people sitting in four cars thousands of feet into the sky. Mount Kings Dominion was first discovered to be active after several species of Smurf moved away from the brown mountain in 1993.
Having sat dormant for centuries, the volcano threatens one of Virginia’s most populous metropolitan areas with its lurking dome that can be seen from miles away, especially around the Doswell exit on Interstate 95, just north of Ashland.
Fan resident Charlotte Long said she was about 11 years old when she witnessed the last eruption.
“I was so scared,” said Long, who noted her two brothers were at her side for the entire one minute and 10 second explosion. “When it happens again, though, I’ll be ready for it. I’m a big girl now.”