Pierce County upgrades warning system for ‘one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world’

TACOMA, Wash. - Pierce County is improving a warning system meant to keep residents safe from volcanic mudflows resulting from a Mount Rainier eruption.

The United States Geological Survey has identified Mount Rainier as "one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world," Pierce County officials say.

One of the primary hazards of the long-dormant volcano are lahars- volcanic mudflows formed by melting snow and ice.

Historically, lahars have traveled down river valleys to the Puget Sound. Lahars today would devastate communities such as Orting, Sumner, Puyallup and Fife, officials say.

Pierce County Department of Emergency Management, in partnership with the USGS, has begun upgrading the system of lahar sensors and warning sirens first put in place in the early 1990s. The current system is functioning well, officials say, but upgrades will improve life-saving information to those that live, work and play around Mount Rainier.

"Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressman Kilmer have been instrumental in advocating for funding of the needed upgrades," Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy said. "On the behalf of the over 830,000 residents of Pierce County and the nearly 3 million people that live in close proximity to what the USGS has categorized as the most dangerous volcano in North America, I want to express a heartfelt thank you."

Upgrades to the system will continue through 2017.