Guide to Stratovolcanoes of the World
A Fictional Story - Clark's Last Days
Brad lived with his mother and dad on Clark Air Base in the Philippines. His dad, a captain in the airforce, was stationed at Clark. Living in the Philippines was very different from Colorado, where Brad had ever lived before. The language was strange, the weather hot and humid, and the scenery totally different from anything he was familiar with. The land immediately around Clark was flat and very green, with jungle-covered mountains to the north and west. The mountain to the north, Arayat, was a beautiful cone-shaped mountain. A big mountain -- actually a volcano -- called Pinatubo was west of Clark. Lately white columns of steam could be seen rising into the sky from Pinatubo. These steam clouds did not seem threatening, just different and very far away. Brad was excited because they only had one week of school left and maybe after school his Dad could take him to get a closer look at Pinatubo.
As Brad walked to school on Monday June 3rd, he looked to the west. Steam was rising from the mountains again. It looked different today -- dirtier and thicker than before. Brad could not see the crater where the smoke came from, but he knew it was from Pinatubo. Suddenly the earth seemed to rock under Brad's feet. He fell to his knees and dropped his lunch. He was just getting up when a second lurch knocked him down again. Brad looked towards Pinatubo. He knew these earthquakes had something to do with the volcano. Ever since April, there had been several earthquakes each day, but usually they were so small Brad didn't even notice them.
On Friday morning June 7th, the last day of school for the year, Brad's teacher told the class the volcanic activity at Pinatubo was increasing and the base might be evacuated. Brad looked out the window towards the mountains and wondered
"How can that volcano do anything to us when we are so far away?"
Thoughts of volcanoes and evacuations faded as the last bell rang and school was out for summer!
Brad did not think about the volcano, until Sunday when he saw a huge gray cloud rising from the mountains. The next morning, Monday June 10th, the announcement came.
"All non-mission specific personnel must leave the base."
That meant all the families and most of the service personnel would evacuate. Brad's mother, Mary, was prepared for this. She and Brad's dad had been packing the family pictures, clothes, and important papers all weekend. They kept the most important things in their car, ready for the evacuation to Subic Bay, 50 miles south of Clark.
Brad's dad was among the mission specific personnel who had to stay behind. He kissed Brad and Mary good bye and promised to join them soon. Cars formed a long line, bumper to bumper as families left the base. As the cars moved slowly south, the sky grew darker and something like snow began to fall from the sky. Only this was not snow, it was ash from the volcano! Mary turned the wipers on to clear the windshield. As the line of cars crept slowly south, Brad rolled down his window to try to catch some of the ash in his hand. The terrible sulfur smell in the air surprised Brad and his mom. They started coughing and Brad quickly rolled up the window.
"Whew that stuff is really bad," said Brad. "It hurts my throat."
After 5 long hours, Brad and his Mom reached Subic Bay Navy Station. They joined other evacuees housed in the gymnasium, watching the sky and waiting for the OK to return to Clark.
Two days later, Brad looked to the north, towards Clark where his dad was still working. The biggest cloud of ash he had ever seen filled the sky. It seemed to stretch up forever, forming a shape like a giant mushroom. The ash, which had fallen lightly off and on for the last few days, got thicker and the sky was much darker. Orders came for families to prepare to evacuate Subic Bay and return to the United States. On Thursday, June 13th, there was another big eruption. Now Pinatubo seemed to be constantly erupting, sending clouds of ash into the air. On Saturday, the biggest eruption yet occurred, turning the sky dark with ash falling thick, even as far away as Subic Bay!
Crews at Clark and Subic Bay worked to clear the ash from roofs of buildings, hoping the roof would not collapse under the weight of the rain soaked ash. After the big eruption on Saturday, more people, including Brad's dad, evacuated Clark. Brad's dad described what he saw at Clark. He said that nearly a foot of ash covered everything - cars, houses, even the trees. The sky was so dark you needed powerful flashlights to see, even at mid-day! Now Brad, his dad and mom were all leaving the Philippines, but Brad had an amazing story to tell. He had witnessed the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century and lived to tell about it!
Brad and his family are fictitious, but the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo did force the evacuation and eventual closure of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station. Lahars continue to threaten those living around Pinatubo.