I promised you in the last post that we’d get to look at what would happen if Yellowstone Volcano really did erupt. Not necessarily a fun thing to imagine, and let’s hope it never does happen. So, sit back with a warm drink and let’s imagine what would happen if Yellowstone Volcano did decide to erupt with full force. Here we go…
It’s official. It’s gonna be a bad Monday.
News nowadays usually travels faster than you can blink. Too bad some things travel just slightly faster.
It’s the middle of July and I look out my office window to see dark clouds pouring over the Colorado mountains. Flakes of snow are raining down. Huge flakes that blanket everything. And they are a mucky gray.
I scrunch my nose. Colorado is prone to some pretty wacky snowstorms in all seasons of the year, but I’ve never seen something like this go down in the middle of the summer. I haven’t finished fishing my cell phone out of my purse before I hear a commotion down the hall. And a long stream of pirate-speech.
I’m out of my chair in a second, following the sound to the breakroom. I’m not the first one there. Half of the staff is crammed into the small room and the TV in the corner is cranked up. I catch the words Yellowstone and eruption as I wiggle on my tiptoes trying to catch a glimpse of the monitor. I groan. Not another one of those hokey stories they pass around to get everyone hyped up.
I duck and wiggle through the crowd to a good vantage point on top of a chair. The same image of a roiling ash cloud replays over and over on the screen. A cloud that look very reminiscent of the one outside. I can see the panic on the faces of the reporters; hear the tinge of fear in their voices. I listen closer. Yellowstone Volcano has erupted! And only a half hour ago. There were preliminary reports of lava flows searing what had once been the peaceful Yellowstone National Park. Ashfalls in Wyoming and Idaho were already up to a foot deep. Colorado was next, and, being downwind, would be one of the hardest hit.
I run back down the hall to grab my purse and get the heck out of there. I have to get home, get to my cats, my boyfriend. I skid to a stop at the view out the window. All of the color has been sucked out of the world. Denver is buried beneath a foot of ash, and it isn’t slowing down.
The lights flicker and I look up warily. The power stays on for the moment and I look back out at the city. Others must have had the same thought I did – get out of work and get home – but they were all stopping before they hit the sidewalk. There was no point in it. The ash was already clogging the roads and in my little car, I’d be hopelessly stuck about two blocks down. And who wanted to be stuck in a hot car (it was ninety degrees out after all!) breathing that nasty stuff? Not me. So as anxious as I am to find my man, I’ll try to text him for now and just stay put. Once the plows can clear the roads (hopefully it’s as easy as clearing snow), I’ll hop in the little Honda and go.
It is dark. And not just dark, suffocatingly black. The layer of ash outside is nearly as tall as I am and the finer stuff just hangs in the air like a thick mist. The ash had swiftly killed the building’s air conditioner and clogged the HVAC unit, so it was hot as hell in here too. The top few floors had collapsed under the weight of the ash, so most of us had moved down here to the clammy basement. The power had died a few hours ago, and so we sat in the dark with a few work lights hanging nearby for comfort. I was busy making pals with a mouse who wanted to share my Cheetos with me. I looked distastefully at the bag. Some dinner.
Johnny, bored out of his skull, turned his phone back on. Miraculously, he got a signal and looked up some of the news stories. The whole of North America was blanketed in a thick pile of ash. What had once been Yellowstone National Park was now buried beneath smoldering lava flows. Power and cell towers had collapsed all over the country, electricity was out, sewers were backing up. Roads were completely blocked, air traffic halted all around the world. The ash cloud was going to wrap its tendrils around the entire planet before this was over and the aftermath would be, quiet literally, chilling.
Johnny was reading one of the stories out loud now. About how this eruption would be a global killer. Nothing, except maybe some microbes, would survive. I sighed and pushed the back of my head against the concrete wall. I hoped that wasn’t the case; that this was just an overly excited journalist. But what if dying was the easy way out, and what was to come would be a tremendous fight for survival?
6 months later
I wipe my hand over the mirror. The gray dust constantly covers everything and gets into places one didn’t know they had. I pull down the scarf I wear over my nose and mouth just in time to cough. A tiny splattering of blood appears on my hand as I cover my mouth. Doesn’t matter how many times I cough up blood like this, it still unnerves me. Breathing ash is like inhaling microscopic shards of glass. It shreds your lungs.
This building has had running water, however mucky it is, restored. I turn on the creaky faucet and splash my face. When I pull back, I see my reflection in the mirror. My eyes are sunken in, surrounded by dark rings, and my face is gaunt and pale. I almost look like a skeleton with a shroud of skin draped over it.
There is rarely enough food or clean water to go around. I’m lucky if I get a can of soup a day. Even then, I tend to share it with the nearest starving kid. That bag of Cheetos that seemed so distasteful last summer now would be a prized commodity.
The ash had buried America’s Great Plains and annihilated this year’s crops. Nothing survived. Other countries had tried to provide America aide at first, but with their own crops failing, they had to stop. With the plants dying, so are many animals. Lakes that once had plenty of fish now have them rotting as they float on a raft of ash. And next year will be another “year without a summer,” so it’s hard to imagine things will fare much better. And neither will we.
Hundreds of thousands have died just in the span of half a year. Famine is one thing, but disease is another. It has spread like a wildfire. Medicine is hard to come by, since it’s hard to transport anything, and famine prevents people from healing. We are losing so many people so fast, there is nowhere to put the bodies except in mass graves.
I step outside into a world that is nothing but gray, gray, gray. A ray of sunlight is trying to fight through the haze, and its startling gold color makes me smile. One of the few times there is color anymore is during a rare sunset or sunrise. I’ve learned not to take those for granted.
A group of soldiers marches past me in their fatigues. Martial law and curfew has been put into place. The government runs the show here now. They ration out the meager amounts of food and water that make it through the destroyed chain of roads each day. Everything has broken down – society, economy, you name it, it’s gone. We’ve had to team up and work together, sharing everything we have, if we’re going to survive this.
It’s freezing today, and real snow is starting to fall. I pull my scarf and coat tighter around me and shuffle to the makeshift greenhouse that we’ve been building in the basement of an old friend’s house. The tomatoes I’ve been growing just peeked their head above soil yesterday. I hope that there is more growth on them today. Not too bad for someone who never had a green thumb in her life.
I sigh as a cold gust of wind flings ash into my face. The first year has to be the hardest, right? Perhaps. But things aren’t going to get any easier for a very long time. It was going to be a new way of living, starting everything over from scratch, but at least it wouldn’t be left up to the microbes to accomplish. Humanity was going to come through this and would hopefully not have to see another supervolcanic eruption like this for a very, very long time.
A bit of a scary scenario to imagine, right? There are some fascinating articles out there on the Internet that go into depth about what would happen on a global level, and I’ve seen some pretty interesting shows on Discovery and Science Channels about the topic. If you’re intrigued, check them out.
But now that we’ve gotten all this out of the way, I want to take you with me on a tour of Yellowstone National Park. Stay tuned – posts are coming!
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