Local Geologists Fear Worst from Beckwourth Peak

By Michael J. Gannett

PORTOLA – Major recent geologic activity and non-stop earthquake swarms have spawned fears of a potential eruption of Beckwourth Peak from the Lost Sierra geologic community.  The volcano has been dormant for millions of years, long enough that many geologists thought it extinct or a mere volcanic plug, until recent research came to light showing that the mighty mountain is not a mere plug, and is certainly not dormant.

“It’s a terrible situation” said geophysicist Cody Taylor, co-founder of local geologic engineering firm Shoo Fly Geoconsultants in Sloat.  “This kind of activity has never been seen at this level in this area.  Even Mount St. Helens wasn’t this geologically active before its infamous eruption in 1980.”  Taylor’s resume includes an award-winning geotechnical analysis of the New Orleans Megathrust Fault in Louisiana, which menaces the Gulf of Mexico with gargantuan quakes every 300 years.  He earned a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Michigan in Petoskey, and completed his Doctoral degree in Geophysics at the University of Nevada in McDermitt.

The Shoo Fly geologic team has been in the consulting business for a combined 65 years between their three members, which also includes A.C. Hunter III, a graduate of the University of Greenland, and local legend Elizabeth McElroy, educated at Westwood’s own University of California – Almanor.  Their monitoring network across the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe National Forests accurately predicted a major earthquake under Honey Lake five years ago, and now it is detecting a massive earthquake swarm in a very distinctive vertical pattern traveling up the inside of Beckwourth Peak – a surefire sign of a rapidly-filling magma chamber.

The Lost Sierra is no stranger to volcanic activity, with the famous Lassen Peak eruptions early in the last century and the more recent abandonment of Randolph Hot Springs near Sierraville due to their rapid heating from subsurface magma injections.  However, Beckwourth Peak’s last eruption 11 million years ago was so significant that it shaved 4,000 feet off the mountain’s elevation and dammed up the Feather River for almost 50,000 years, flooding Sierra Valley and creating Lake Beckwourth in its place.  The last time there was a more major eruptive event locally was 10 million years before the last Beckwourth eruption, when Dixie Mountain (at the time a towering colossus equal to Mount Shasta itself) lost over a mile of elevation in a cataclysmic eruption about three times the strength of the 1815 Tambora eruption, plunging the world into a brief ice age.

Shoo Fly is coordinating with the Plumas and Sierra County Offices of Emergency Services (OES), and both the State OES and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are setting up evacuation camps in American and Indian Valleys (for Portola/Graeagle evacuees) and just north of Truckee (for Sierra Valley evacuees).  “We are advising people to please not panic during this troubling time” said Plumas OES coordinator Marina Montescieu.  “Panicking isn’t going to make the problem go away and will muddle your ability to think clearly, so we are asking you to instead prepare to evacuate in a rational, controlled manner.  Do not panic; I repeat, do not panic.”

Others, however, have expressed their doubts about the veracity of these statements.  “Look, I’m a believer in science, but I’m not too convinced by this stuff” said Sierra Valley rancher George Gumshoe as he scratched his prize Longhorn bull behind the ears.  “My family has been here for almost 200 years, and nobody has ever seen any signs that anything odd is happening up on that there mountain.  Beckwourth being an extinct volcano is debatable enough, but an active one?  Come on!”

Another local farmer, Dick Bugger, was even more skeptical.  “I say it’s a load of gobbledygook, ” the alfalfa farmer said to the Mountain Mistaker while loading up several fire extinguishers into the back of his ATV.  “We’ve had some issues with poison gas and spontaneous combustion of crops ‘round these parts for decades.  You can’t convince me that the mountain up there is tryin’ to kill us; that’d be ridicuous.”  This farmer, who also serves as a Sierra County Supervisor, gestured at the giant smoke plume coming from Beckwourth’s summit while casually flicking away a burning cinder from the brim of his hat.  “This damn fad will be over in a week and we’ll all get back to normal soon ‘nough.”

A bevy of tourists were interviewed by the Mistaker at their tent city over in Port Wine about their knowledge of the situation, but their responses were shockingly callous.  “Ranchers?  Farmers?  Loggers?  Who cares if a volcano wipes them out!  Mother Earth’s justified wrath, I say!” said Roberta “Dancing Butterfly” Mitchell, an unemployed art graduate from Berkeley who we interviewed behind her boyfriend’s boyfriend’s Tesla.  Mitchell declined to comment further, opting to instead scream in horror as her pet guinea pig was snatched up and devoured by a red-tailed hawk.

“I think it’s just terrible” said David Swan to the Mistaker over a couple of hot oat milk lattes.  “Those poor souls didn’t do anything wrong, but humans just aren’t meant to live in the countryside.  This all could have been avoided if they gave up this silly agriculture nonsense and moved to Pleasanton 25 years ago.  Another one please, Chad.”  At that point, he took another latte from the man behind the counter of the Stardimes coffee stand and wandered off into the woods to look for his wife, Sandra Goose, who immediately appeared from behind the stand with a different man seconds after he left.

As the Mistaker goes to press, the volcano’s eruption seems imminent, with the destruction of everything north and west of it via pyroclastic flow almost guaranteed to occur.  Several local ranchers have speculated that it might be possible to blow a hole in the opposite side of the volcano with a massive stock of unexploded ordinance that may or may not have gone missing enroute to a military depot almost 40 years ago, draining the magma chamber into Carman Valley.  Local conservationists are very displeased with the idea, but have yet to propose an alternative solution.  We at the Mistaker continue to report live from the scene, where we will remain until the eruption flash-boils our innards as the cameras roll.  Don’t miss it!

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