The Pierce County Department of Emergency Management (PCDEM) has received $1 million in federal funding for the first phase of upgraded equipment for the Mount Rainier Lahar Warning System (LWS). The current system is functioning well. However, the new funding will enable PCDEM, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and other partners to install the technological updates needed to modernize the existing system.
The Mount Rainier LWS is part of an overall emergency communications system for Pierce County. The focus of the system is to detect volcanic and seismic activity on Mount Rainier and warn the residents in the Puyallup River Valley of the need to evacuate due to a volcanic eruption.
After the 2014 State Route 530 (Oso) Landslide in Snohomish County, Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy asked for a risk and readiness review of the Lahar Warning System to ensure it provides as much warning as possible to the residents of the river valleys fed by Mount Rainier. The planned updates will make it possible to detect changes in the volcano and provide “early warning” of an eruption on a days-to-weeks basis.
“This is a big deal,” said Executive McCarthy. “It will help protect the more than 830,000 people in Pierce County and the nearly three million people who live in close proximity to what the USGS calls the most dangerous volcano in North America.” The executive went on to praise members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation for their efforts to secure the funding. “Congressman Kilmer and Senators Murray and Cantwell were instrumental in securing this important funding. They deserve a heartfelt thank you.”
It is anticipated that USGS and PCDEM will begin working on the project in early 2016.