Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano, which has been active since 1983, had a major eruption this week. According to a number of national newspapers like the Associated Press, 26 homes have been lost, over 1,900 people have been evacuated so far, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park shut down for tourists and local residents.

This eruption, like nearly all local eruptions in Alaska and those in Hawaii, has residents and volcano experts turning their eyes warily to the West Coast. From Washington to the Baja California peninsula is a boundary where lava can force it's way to the surface.

This has given birth to a string of dormant and active volcanoes with far more destructive power than when Hawaii volcanoes erupt.

Mud avalanches

Mud avalanches, also known as lahars, form when a volcano erupts and melts a large amount of snow or displaces a lot of water. If the area is rich in soot or soil, this forms what are known as lahars. These can lift car-sized boulders, wash away houses, and reshape entire landscapes.

The states most at risk are the water-rich states of Oregon and Washington. The famous Mt. Rainier in Washington is one of the largest and most dangerous dormant volcanoes. The mountain is host to a huge amount of snow and hazards that claim the lives of several hikers a year.

California also has a respectable mountain similar to Rainier. Mt. Shasta, which is located a couple hundred miles east of Los Angeles, is home to one of the largest expanding glaciers in North America. When Hawaii volcanoes erupt, they spew out slow-moving lava flows that usually leave just enough time for an evacuation. Volcanoes on the West Coast though, usually violently erupt like an atomic bomb,

These volcanoes are part of what is known as the Cascade Range, a line of volcanoes running from Washington down to Southern California.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, nineteen of these volcanoes are located in California alone.

Threat level

The threat level of these volcanoes is very low at this point. The damage they can do is stupendous, but nearly all of them are dormant. Not extinct, but not having seen an eruption in tens of thousands of years.

Most dangerous would be the mud avalanches or lahars, that would result from such an eruption. What helps is most of these mountains are surrounded by miles of wilderness that have been set aside by the federal and state governments. Much of the damage lahars would cause could be mitigated before they reached inhabited areas.

Volcanoes are nice because they tend to cause tons of earthquakes before a major eruption. These usually give us months of warning and time for evacuations. The most we can do is stay alert and obey evacuation orders.