Christmas with Popocatépetl
December 26, 2000
Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, towers 55 km to the east of Mexico City, Mexico and is North America's 2nd highest volcano rising 5,465 meters above sea level. The steep-sided volcanic cone came back to life six years ago after nearly 70 years of dormancy and has been erupting intermittently since then. More than 30 million people live within view of the volcano. On Monday, December 18, the largest eruption of Popocatépetl in 1,200 years occurred and convinced people to leave immediately. Over 56,000 evacuees of the 40 villages within 12 km of the volcano crowded the roads heading away from the eruption. Besides volcanic ash, a hazard at Popo is the possibility of the eruptive material melting glacial ice on the volcano and causing a large mudflow or lahar. The volcano has quieted since the 18th, but scientists are keeping a close watch on this waking giant. Popocatépetl, locally called "Popo," is one of more than 400 active volcanoes surrounding the Pacific Basin.