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Popocatepetl volcano in central Mexico showed recent activity that has people in the area on high alert. The volcano lies around 50 miles to the southeast of Mexico City and is clearly visible to the more than 19 million residents of the capital on a clear day. The lava dome on Popocatepetl, which means "Smoking Mountain" in the native Nahuatl language, started to expand on Friday and ash lightly dusted the cars and streets in some towns located close to the volcano. This, in combination with a steam-and-ash plume and elevated seismicity prompted local schools to cancel classes, emergency teams to prepare for evacuation, and CENAPRED, Mexico's National Center for Prevention of Disasters, to raise the alert status to Yellow Phase 3.
This is the third highest threat level out of 7, indicating that local authorities should be ready for potential evacuations if the volcano has a major eruption. Image to left is plume of steam rising from Popo seen from the city of Puebla on Saturday, April 14th, 2012. (Photo - Joel Merino).
Because Popo has several summit glaciers, the potential hazards from Popo will include lahars that will form due to the mixing of water and volcanic debris, ash fall on the communities around the volcano, and perhaps even pyroclastic flows. A hazard map created by volcanologists at the University of Buffalo shows the area that could be affected by an eruption. A major eruption in 2000 forced the evacuation of nearly 50,000 residents in three states surrounding the mountain.
If conditions are good and you want to keep an eye on Popocatepetl and its activity, click here.