Although federal officials raised the volcano alert for Popocatépetl to yellow Phase 3 yesterday, the Civil Protection agency says the situation cannot be considered an emergency.
However, vigilance is called for because the volcano’s recent activity is described as atypical, said the agency’s chief, David León Romero.
“Between 1986 and 2018, 86 domes have formed” atop the volcano’s crater, he said, explaining that the domes, made of volcanic material, are like plugs. They contain the volcano’s internal pressure until an explosion breaks them up. “Days later, a new dome is formed.”
León said dome No. 82 formed a few weeks ago and has already broken apart, “but we continue to have explosions. Data tells us that the volcano is behaving differently.”
“Differently means that we have not witnessed an episode of this kind. It does not mean greater activity or greater danger.”
León observed that the recent explosions could be caused by the clogging of a lower section of the volcano’s vent, one that cannot be seen by Civil Protection helicopters flying overhead.
He said a new dome is expected to form soon, which will result in the volcano warning to be lowered to its usual yellow Phase 2.
Meanwhile, federal and state authorities are reviewing evacuation routes and shelters.
Residents in the vicinity of the volcano can keep an eye on things by monitoring the website Webcams de México, which has three cameras pointed at El Popo and are streaming images continuously.
The closest is in San Nicolás de Los Ranchos, Puebla, from which the most informative and interesting images of the volcano have been caught.
The other two cameras are located in the México state municipality of Amecameca, one in the city of the same name and the other at Hacienda de Panoaya.
Civil Protection’s social media accounts are another way to stay informed.
The agency posted today at 10:30am on Twitter that in the previous 24 hours, there had been 119 exhalations, one explosion and one volcano tectonic earthquake.
The yellow Phase 3 alert is the highest warning level before the red phase in which people living near the volcano are advised to be ready to evacuate. Around 275,000 people live within a 30-kilometer radius of Popocatépetl.