What does Mt. Baker debris flow mean for Western Washington?

Debris flow this spring on the Mt. Baker Boulder Glacier reminded many Whatcom County residents of the active volcano sitting in their backyard.

Recent interest prompted a new blog post by Whatcom emergency management stating, though scientifically interesting, the flow does not pose a threat to any Whatcom County communities.




"These debris flows consist mostly of ice and snow and do not flow more than a couple miles. They are not lahars and they rarely, if ever, travel beyond the margin of the Boulder Glacier," said Dave Tucker, Director of the Mount Baker Volcano Research Center and a geology professor at Western Washington University.

"There is no risk to people from these small events, unless you happen to be on the Boulder Glacier," he said.

Climbers on Mount Baker photographed a recent debris flow across Boulder Glacier on the volcano's eastern flank in early June, according to The Bellingham Herald.

Tucker told The Herald that the debris flow happens every three to five years – and that some can be very large.

“If they happen when climbers are on the mountain, it can be a problem,” he told The Herald. “And they are fairly quiet; there’s no cloud of snow like with an avalanche, making it difficult to see. There’s no way to predict them ... sometimes there’s a seismic signal.”

John Gargett, deputy director Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, published a hazards maps of areas subject to lahars and mudflows on the blog post Friday.

"Mt. Baker is, and has been, an active volcano, which we have been actively planning for since before the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980," he wrote.

Over the next two years, the Division of Emergency Management will continue its planning efforts in Whatcom County, click here for details.