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Mt. Gardner Erupts!
Thousands flee

Clouds parted briefly over the North Cascades this morning to reveal an astonishing sight:  8,956 foot Mountain Gardner, is erupting, spewing ash and hot gases thousands of feet into the air.

Experts appear confused: they did not predict this coming eruption, and have no predictions of what will happen next.  Thousands are fleeing from both the east and west slopes of the North Cascades.  Relatives all over the Pacific Northwest are suddenly burdened with visitors they hadn’t planned on.

Many Methow Valley residents heard faint rumbles through the night, but attributed it to other causes such as their spouse’s stomach or the neighbor’s late arrival home in a badly-tuned pickup.

“I though the (expletive) DOT was blowing down avalanches on Highway 20,” late yesterday, said one part-time Mazama resident. “Then I heard a long rumble and I thought maybe they cut loose a big one.  But I didn’t really smell anything until this morning.”

“Lucky for us, the ash column and gasses are blowing slightly westward.  Some is headed for China, but I’m betting the rest falls in the mountains,” said longtime Methow Valley resident Shirley Macklewrath from her cell phone, headed over Stevens Pass in a pickup with her dog, Mitzy.  “None of my numbskull relatives in Mount Vernon have seen, heard, or smelled anything.  Doesn’t mean it ain’t happening.  And won’t they be surprised when we show up on their doorstep for safe haven until this thing sorts itself out.”

Asked what a lava flow might do to endangered fish populations, local ranching, and Winthrop’s tourist trade, staff at the Okanogan County Commissioner’s office had no comment.

The eruption caught scientists by surprise. Geophysicists at the at the University of Washington Seismological Laboratory reported none of the earthquake tremors that usually signal magma moving from depth into the plumbing system of a volcano.

Geologists initially dismissed the reports of ash and lava at Gardner, because the mountain has no history of volcanism. “There have been no active volcanoes in that part of the state for tens of millions of years,” said Dr. Gloria Steinbergram of the Northwest Volcano Coalition when interviewed by phone. “Are you sure someone didn’t see fumes from Mt. Baker, which is one of the active volcanos along the subduction zone between the oceanic and continental plates?”

“If Gardner is erupting, that may be trouble, because it might signal the beginning of a mantle hot spot inside the continental plate,” she continued. “That would be a problem for eastern Washington.”


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