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Dotsero volcanic threat met with guffaw

MATT ZALAZNICK
eagle county correspondent
Vail Daily file photo
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DOTSERO ” A volcano ” just down the road from Vail!

The Dotsero crater, about a half-mile north of I-70, hasn’t erupted in 4,000 years, but because of the power of that ancient eruption, the local volcano is listed as a “moderate threat” in a report on volcanic activity by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“I don’t lose sleep over it,” said Gerry Mayne, after a good laugh.

Mayne’s company, Mayne Block in Dotsero, mines cinder block out of the quarter-mile wide crater that looks like a funnel in the ground.

“The thought has crossed my mind that if it ever goes off, I’ve got good life insurance,” said Mayne, who lives in Gypsum. “There’s no smoke, no steam, no nothing. If there was, I wouldn’t be up there.”

The U.S. Geological Survey study lists volcano threats in five categories, from very high to very low; moderate, as would be expected, is right in the middle.

“It’s not an indication of who’s going to erupt next, we’re using it as an indication of volcanoes we do not want to play catch-up with. It means we need to take them a little more seriously,” said John Ewert, a volcanologist who co-authored the study.

“The purpose was to identify volcanoes we need to be monitoring before they wake up,” Ewert added.

Scientists sometimes can’t spot a volcano in early stages of eruption.

In the Cascade Mountains in Washington and Oregon ” an active area home to the infamous Mt. St. Helens ” clouds are often blocking the tops of mountains that might be spitting out smoke. The study helps scientists identify which mountains require more reliable monitoring than just the naked eye, Ewert said.

What makes Dotsero a moderate volcanic threat is that the eruption 4,000 years was “explosive,” Ewert said. “Not only could it impact people in the immediate vicinity, it also represents a hazard for aircraft,” he said.

Mayne’s not expecting an eruption. “I don’t figure it’ll ever go off, but I might be worried in Gypsum,” Mayne said. “If you look, that’s where all the deposits ended up, all toward Gypsum.”


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