Volcanic ash temporarily shut down Mexico City airport; it has now reopened.

Sara B

Increased volcanic activity from the Popocatépetl volcano resulted in the closure of Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport and Felipe Angeles Airport on May 20, 2023. Both were shut down temporarily and have since reopened.

The airport was closed due to ash being emitted into the atmosphere from the volcano. The Popocatépetl Volcano (El Popo) is 45 miles southeast of Mexico City and has been active since 1994, when it awoke, it has been spewing fumes, ash, and lumps of incandescent rock.

Due to the volcano's proximity to Mexico City, a city with a population of 22 million people, the city is at risk of earthquakes, sinking soil, and a volcanic eruption which would be devastating, and the city would be covered in ash.

The volcano is closely watched at its summit with six cameras, a thermal imaging device, and 12 seismologic monitoring stations, operating 24 hours a day. Unlike an earthquake, the warning times for a volcano are longer, and the peak time is more predictable.

Not only do the scientists monitor the volcano summit, but they also monitor the gases in nearby springs and wind patterns that will help determine which ash could be blown. In addition, those living near the volcano have a volcano stoplight system with three colors, green for safety, yellow for alert, and red for danger. The stoplight has been on yellow for years, often shooting out molten lava.

The closes town of the volcano is Xalitzintla; the town has an evacuation route set in action if and when they are instructed to evacuate. However, according to scientists, they will be able to see a big eruption coming and will be able to order the mass evacuation of towns in a 12-mile radius.

However, the problem would come if not all followed the evacuation request, and if the eruption does happen as planned, those late to leave will cause traffic jams making it difficult to leave. However, the real threat would be if the wind blew toward Mexico City, it would create a cloud of ash 20 centimeters thick.

It would destroy roadways, shut down airports and the metro, and make breathing difficult; the ash would eventually clog the drainage system, poison water supplies, and most likely short-circuit the electricity. In addition, food supplies would be cut off, creating many to suffer and possibly die.

Yet at this time, the volcano is being watched closely, and scientists will be able to determine if it will blow and allow people time to leave the areas and cities.

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