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PBO Sends Emergency Response Team to Mt. St. Helens


PBO Director Dr. Mike Jackson and Rocky Mountain Regional Engineer Steve Borenstein hit the road in a flash from Boulder, CO, Sunday morning in response to the unexpected recent activity at Mt. St. Helens. Having spent the previous week gathering emergency response GPS materials, packing up the UNAVCO truck and trailer, and making sure their living wills are up to date, Jackson and Borenstein began driving across the country in a Ford F350 truck making just one stop on the way: to pick up PBO’s Basin & Range Regional Engineer, Greg Hilker, from Salt Lake City, UT.

Steve Borenstein, assigned project manager for the Mt. St. Helens emergency response, was relieved to finally arrive in Washington state Monday afternoon after being saturated for the last two days with Jackson’s and Hilker’s music selection du jour: ‘Country Twangs (volume 2).’ Once in Vancouver, the three men worked on logistics and met with the USGS to discuss coordinating response efforts. Meanwhile, PBO’s Facilities Construction Manager Karl Feaux and Senior Engineer Dave Mencin quickly packed their bags and jumped on a plane to meet the rest of the group in Vancouver that evening.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Waking up bright and early, pumped and ready to go from all the excitement, Steve Borenstein and Dave Mencin drove to the Mt. St. Helens monument headquarters to get ‘official business’ passes and keys for the PBO crews to get past the monitored and locked gates. These extra security measures have been put in place since the activity began at the volcano to keep out curious pedestrians and other unauthorized visitors.

Back in Vancouver, Jackson, Feaux, and Hilker spend the day wrapping up details before heading to the volcano. In addition to running final errands to pick up extra supplies, they make a stop at the USGS to go through a helicopter and volcano safety briefing, and to set up the correct radio frequency for use on the mountain. USGS will be providing minimal flight watching for the PBO crews in case of an emergency or in the case the volcano gets a little too antsy. Once finished, the three men drove to Cougar, WA, to meet up with Mencin and Borenstein at the base of the mountain.

Once all together, everyone headed up to the Climbers Bivouac, one of the main trailheads for the volcano, to start building in advance the ‘swing sets’ (steel frames that securely hold the solar panels and battery enclosures) for the emergency response GPS stations. By the time the sun went down, the majority of one swing set had been completed and a second one had been started on. Having to go through the extra security stops, it’s about a 25-30 minute drive to get to and from the Bivouac from the town of Cougar, where the crews are staying at local cabins.

That evening, three more brave PBO engineers arrived in Cougar to help tackle this extraordinary project: Katrin Hafner and Peter Gray from the Pacific Northwest office, and Barrett Friesen from the Rocky Mountain regional office. Now, with the PBO X-Men Team in place, super scientific data will be discovered and this changing world will be as it never has been known before…

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

This morning, a handful of the crew members drove to the Climbers Bivouac to meet the helicopter at 9am. After another safety briefing, crews loaded up the aircraft with equipment to be brought to the first emergency response site P697, about a 15 minute helicopter ride away. Located on the southeast side of the mountain, the site provides a stunning view of both Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

Meanwhile, Katrin Hafner and Greg Hilker kept working on building the swing sets at the Climbers Bivouac. After attaching the solar panels and battery enclosure onto the P697 swing set, the helicopter successfully slung this cumbersome piece of equipment (minus the four 70-pound batteries) to the site for workers to install.

At the same time, Dave Mencin and Peter Gray worked on getting the VSAT up and running at the Lone Pine Resort, and making a visit to the volcano’s Coldwater Visitors Center to work resolving some communication issues.

The team on the volcano continued to work all day at site P697, applying finishing touches and completing the majority of the installation. At around 4pm, Jackson and Feaux left P697 and headed to the second emergency response site, P693, to retrofit a SCIGN mount onto an existing USGS EDM monument. Having to fly over the crater of the volcano in order to get to P693, Feaux felt a bit ‘exposed’ to the elements when landing at the site (located on the northwest side of the mountain) where strong winds blew towards them from the direction of the crater. Although it’s been calm so far, more volcano activity and strong winds could potentially cover the entire area in heavy ash, creating unsafe working conditions. At the moment, though, beautiful views continue at P693, where Mt. Rainier can be seen clearly to the north and Mt. Adams to the east.

So far, good luck and great timing has brought clear skies and sunny weather (around 50 degrees); and although workers had to deal with 30-knot winds, everyone is feeling very fortunate to have the nice weather and hope it will stay around for just a few more days.


Last modified: 2020-01-28  22:54:09  America/Denver