A volcano southeast of the Mexican capital spewed more gas and ash into the sky on Tuesday as authorities kept their alert level one step below red alert.
The only time the Popocatepetl volcano has raised a red alert on the government’s red light-style system since emerging from decades of dormancy in 1994 was in 2000. The volcano’s last major eruption was more than 1,000 years ago.
The 5,425-meter (17,797-foot) mountain just 70 km (45 miles) southeast of Mexico City and affectionately known as El Popo, has been spitting for days, dotting cities and crops with the Superfine Ash Puebla State.
“When nothing happens, we worry,” said a cheery Viridiana Alba, who has been selling flowers in Amecameca’s central plaza for 25 years. El Popo stands right in front of his stand.
“We know that right now it’s giving off smoke, which releases the energy it contains,” she said. Ash is still resting on the canopy that protects her plants from when the wind blew over her last weekend. The town has been rocked by tremors from the volcano, but as long as the ash stays light, she thinks it will help her plants.
The winds blew a large ash plume eastward over the states of Puebla and Veracruz and possibly the Bay of Campeche and beyond.
Mexico’s National Center for Disaster Prevention said in its report on Tuesday that small lava domes continued to form inside the crater, which were then destroyed by small and moderate explosions. He said people living in communities near the volcano would likely continue these explosions over the next few days and weeks.
No evacuations were ordered, but authorities mapped out evacuation routes, prepared shelters and conducted simulation exercises.
On the Col de Cortes, a small highway that crosses a saddle between Popocatepetl and the inactive volcano Iztaccihuatl, about 20 civil defense vehicles and soldiers blocked the road on Tuesday.
The road was closed to traffic and most of the shacks that attract tourists were empty.
Cástula Sánchez, 75, who sells food to tourists on weekends, was confident Popocatepetl would resettle and tourists would return. She lives near San Pedro Nexapa where, three decades ago, lava came near her home before they could evacuate, but they were spared.
Now she runs a local news service from the back of her shop. Residents bring her short messages scribbled on a piece of paper which she then reads over a loudspeaker that the whole community can hear. So far, the authorities haven’t asked him anything, just to keep an eye out.
At Amecameca, police distributed pamphlets with advice on how to prepare in case the volcano’s activity increases. The leaflet recommended having important documents, a full gas tank, masks and towels on hand for hydration if residents had to leave in a hurry.
Activity this time has not been significant to residents so far, but localized effects could be real for residents on one side of the volcano while everything is normal on the other.