Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010

Mount Pelée

Mount Pelée, standing more than 4,500 feet high on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, erupted violently in May 1902, killing nearly 30,000 people — effectively the entire port city of St. Pierre. The catastrophe was so devastating that the term pelean — to describe that particular kind of ash, gas and fiery cloud eruption — became part of volcanic vernacular. There had been warnings of steam, light earth shocks and raining ash, but they were ignored. After the town was wiped out, Pelée went dormant for some months, until geologists discovered a lava dome, dubbed the tower of Pelée, that rose to more than 1,000 feet above the crater floor before eventually crumbling in March 1903.