Power company mapping areas of probable impact from volcanoes

Sooner or later each of the country’s active volcanoes will erupt and send clouds of ash into the sky.

Neighbors will find this to be a chore as the ash has to be removed from the roofs, patios and sidewalks. San José residents last had mountains of ash when the Volcán Irazú erupted in 1963.

Homeowners may just have the driveway to keep clear, but the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad says it has 2,229 kilometers of high tension lines, 5,090 towers and 60 substations. Many are vulnerable to acid rain and ash.

So the state power company reports it has gone into the records as far back as Colonial times to figure out what the impact might be on its power facilities. Then the company creates hazard maps for two of the country’s volcanoes with an emphasis on the company’s properties within range of an eruption.

The first 10 maps involve the territory around Turrialba and Rincón de la Vieja, both volcanoes that are in an active stage now.

The abrasive ash can generate short circuits and damage metal towers within five miles of an eruption, said the company.

If ash mixes with water, it can become a paste that can short out the electrical line insulators, it added.

Naturally any flow of magma can level electrical installations.

Similar studies are being done on Miravalles, Tenorio, Arenal, Poás, Hule, Barva and Irazú, as well as Barú in Panamá which is close enough to Costa Rica to affect the transmission lines, said the company.

Eventually all the maps will be online for the use of residents and developers who might find them useful for their own purposes, said the company.

Green shaded areas show varying degrees of impact from a Volcán Turrialba eruption.

Green shaded areas show varying degrees of impact from a Volcán Turrialba eruption.

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