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Oregon the second-most covered state with volcanic rock next to Hawaii

Professor Adam Kent holds a volcanic rock from Hawaii on May 4, 2018, at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. (SBG)

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The Pacific Northwest is one of the most volcanic-rich areas in the country.

Volcano expert Adam Kent at Oregon State University says Oregon is the second-most covered state with volcanic rock next to Hawaii.

Kent says one eruption Northwest residents remember and talk about is Mount St. Helens in 1980.

“Some people remember video from Mt. Helen - the lahars would carry a house, which then smashes into a bridge,” said Kent.

Professor Kent says the volcanic eruption happening on the Big Island is no different than what we have seen here in the past.

“To watch that footage is very dramatic and we have had similar eruptions in the past with that type of volcanoes," he said, "it's a shield volcano like Kilauea, the one erupting in Hawaii."

Washington, Oregon and California lie on a tectonic plate pushing on the ocean's crust, causing the cascade area to be filled with several volcanoes.

“The fact is that we see volcanoes out our window," he said, "and lots of us say we ski and do a lot of recreational activities from volcanoes, so there is a lot of interest from volcanoes in the general community that I have found since I have been living in Oregon.”

So, should we be worried about it here? The answer varies, according to Kent.

“The probability of an eruption in 30-50 years is just a few percent, so its there, but it's not huge.”

Kent says the probablity is small, but people who live by volcanoes should be aware of the hazards.

Here in the valley, the closest dormant volcano that could affect us is Mt. Jefferson, just northeast of Eugene.

“The main hazard that we would expect in the Willamette Valley would be a landslide called Lahars, which are volcanic mud-flows you would get with a mixture of volcanic rock and ash, sort of like cement,” said Kent.

While we shouldn't worry about an eruption happening any time soon, Kent says the Geology department always says, "The key to the future is to study the past," so they will continue to do so.

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