Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have asked the Forest Service for permission to install four new volcanic monitoring stations on Mt. Hood.

The agency considers Mt. Hood one of the highest priority volcanoes in Oregon, due to the threat it poses to surrounding communities and the lack of monitoring of its volcanic activity.

"What we want to do is be able to detect the onset of volcanic activity, specifically very small earthquakes that are occurring underneath the summit of the volcano," said Benjamin Pauk, a geophysicist with the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory.

Evidence shows Mt. Hood has erupted twice in the last 1,500 years, most recently just 200 years ago.

Unlike Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood's eruptions have not been violent explosions. Instead, lava flows have poured out of the volcano, traveling as many as eight miles, which poses a threat to the nearby communities of Government Camp, Parkdale, and Rhododendron.

In addition, Pauk said, hot ash and lava would rapidly melt snow on Mt. Hood, sending walls of mud and debris called lahars down the face of the mountain, and into the area's streams and rivers.

Pauk said lahars in the past have made it down the Sandy River as far as Troutdale.

Pauk said more detailed monitoring would allow scientists to get a better read on Mt. Hood's volcanic activity, and potentially set up processes for early warnings for affected communities.

The proposal to install the monitors is currently under environmental assessment, and open to public comments.

Pauk said he hopes to begin installing the monitoring stations in summer 2017.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.



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