Costa Rica

Four Eruptions – Turrialba Volcano, Costa Rica

Worried Wanderer536 views

It’s been a busy Monday for Turrialba Volcano. It’s erupted four times since around 3 am this morning, with the largest explosion sending ash, gas and debris 4km into the air and shutting down the main airport – Juan Santamaría, SJO.

Guadalupe sidewalk Volcano Effects
This image was captured by David Vega and posted on the Red Sismológica Nacional, Costa Rica Facebook Page

I’ve got to be honest… I had no clue what was going on, until the last eruption at around 15h30. I stepped out of my apartment just before I was set to teach a class and the ground was covered in very fine grey ash. Almost immediately my eyes, nose and throat got itchy and irritated. Judging by the people walking around hiding their faces behind their jackets, I wasn’t the only one affected.

As I was walking to my lesson, grey ash covered my clothes. I would dust myself off, only to be covered some more. The whole town had a very hazy look to it, and ash lifted off the street as cars drove by. It was everywhere!

Guadalupe sidewalk Volcano Effects
This is a shot of the sidewalk in Guadalupe – Lucy Alvarez posted this on the Red Sismológica Nacional, Costa Rica Facebook Page

The Turrialba Volcano is located in Cartago, about 50Km from San Jose and around 30Km from my apartment in San Pedro. While we’re certainly not in any immediate danger, there’s no doubt that the ash and gas is annoying. It’s hard to describe what the ash is like… Imagine the finest dust that floats its way into every possible nook and cranny. For days after an eruption we’ll wipe down surfaces, only for the ash to settle again.

Car Covered in Ash
Ash covering a car in San Pedro – 30 km away from the Turrialba Volcano

Turrialba Volcano is one of Costa Rica’s five active volcanoes, along with Arenal, Poás, Irazú, and Rincón de la Vieja. Often volcano eruptions can go unnoticed depending on the direction of the wind, but this time communities north and west of San José, including Coronado, Moravia, Tibás, Guadalupe, Escazú and as far away as Alajuela province, felt the effects.

So what happens when a volcano erupts?

I had visions of mass evacuations, shops closing, and children crying as they ran clutching the arms of their parents. One too many Hollywood movies for me. In fact, as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing changes.

I’ll admit, some people walk around with a face mask or cloth covering their mouths but other than that, it’s life as usual. Nothing to worry about here folks. Pura Vida!

Ash Cloud Costa Rica
Bus attendant with face mask about 2 hours after the final eruption. Check out the cloud of ash!

But if you do find yourself dealing with a volcano and ashfall, here are some helpful tips:

  • Close all windows and doors (seriously, if there’s a crack ash will find its way in)
  • Put all machinery inside a garage or barn.
  • Bring animals and livestock into closed shelters.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to protect your body.
  • Use goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Use a dust mask or hold a damp cloth over your face to help breathing.
  • Keep car or truck engines off and avoid driving in heavy ashfall. Driving will stir up more ash that can clog engines and stall vehicles.
  • Once it’s all over, clear roofs of ashfall. Ashfall is very heavy and can cause buildings to collapse. But it’s also very slippery, so be careful.

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