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"What's that cloud upriver?" An eyewitness account of a lahar
This web page provides a first person account of a geologist's encounter with a lahar while surveying the Nima II river near the town of El Palmar in Guatemala, on August 14, 1989. Lahar is an Indonesian term that describes a hot or cold mixture of water and rock fragments flowing down the slopes of a volcano and (or) river valleys. While about 15 kilometers downstream from an active lava dome, Santiaguito (which is in the Santa Maria Volcano crater) the workers noticed a white steam cloud upriver. A very heavy rainstorm was passing through that area and they knew a hot lahar was likely to be on the way. They secured their equipment and were able to gain a perch on a nearby bridge with their cameras. After witnessing a hot lahar passing underneath they retreated to high ground. The account is illustrated with 4 photographs.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Primary (K-2)
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  • General public
Type of resource:
  • Visual:
    • Photograph
  • Text:
    • Report
  • Geological Sciences:
    • Geology
  • Natural hazards
Technical requirements:
No specific technical requirements, just a browser required
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
Information presented on this website is considered public information and may be distributed or copied. Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credit is requested.
DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-000-321
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: United States Geological Survey, Volcano Hazards Program

Author: Jeff Marso
United States Geological Survey

Contact: United States Geological Survey