March 8th, 2010 started like every other day in Moyogalpa. The symphony of roosters ushered in the day, the March winds howled, and early risers hawked their tortillas throughout the streets. Yet, the beginning of a tranquil, sun drenched day turned dark and ominous when Vulcan Concepcion rumbled, then explosively burped ash and gas plumes 2,100 meters high into the hot, dry, blue sky. Powdery ash blanketed nearby communities like baby powder sprinkled on a new-born.
On subsequent days, the volcano gained momentum. On March 12, Washington VAAC, issued a volcanic ash advisory reporting an ash cloud eruption that reached 10,000 ft. By the middle of March, the Nicaraguan geological service INETER described Concepcion as ” practically in a full eruptive stage”, with 34 explosions between March 18-19.
The Nicaraguan government sent army and navy units to Ometepe Island to prepare for evacuation. Yet, strangely, the locals went about their days hawking tortillas, as if this were an everyday occurrence. They swept the ash from their doorsteps with their twig brooms, and waited patiently for the throngs of soldiers to exit their beloved island.
Did they know something we didn’t? Shortly after all the fuss, feeding an army of disaster responders, and stuffing their bellies with homemade tortillas, Concepcion decided enough was enough. Her attention seeking activity had been rewarded, and she lulled herself back into a peaceful slumber. Until the next time!
Vulcan Concepcion is a highly active volcano with a rich historical record of explosive eruptions. The Global Volcanism Program reports a series of 22 eruptions ( mostly ash and gas), since 1974. See report here.
Several Nicaraguan websites promoting tourism mention, “The Concepcion is an active volcano and its most recent eruption took place in 1957.” It’s true that the islanders confirm, “No need to panic. These minor eruptions happen all the time.” Daily life continues uninterrupted, with only a few minor inconveniences, like sweeping the powdery ash from their doorsteps.
Am I worried? I’m not obsessed with the anticipation of the next eruption. I have my twig broom ready, a few heavy-duty surgical masks to place over our mouths and noses, and a kayak to make a quick escape, (hopefully before we succumb to deadly gases). What more can I do?
Life goes on as normal. I continue to rake mangoes, harvest fruit, and enjoy a fulfilled and stress-free life on Ometepe Island. Until the next time!