Run for the Hills

 Rainier with Orting in the lower left corner.

Mt. Rainier 3D Image prepared by Janet Chien ,NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


To use satellite data to plan the best route for a new road that the people of Orting, WA can use to escape mudflows from Mt. Rainier.


  • Landsat image of the Orting, WA region
  • Elevation data for the Orting, WA region

The Story

You are the emergency preparedness expert on the committee that is planning a new road. Not just any road... this new road must provide the people of Orting, WA, with a quick escape from mudflows racing down the slopes of Mt. Rainier.

About 500 years ago, around the time that Columbus was "discovering" North America, a mudflow swept down the slopes of Mt. Rainier. It followed the Puyallup River valley, covering the land with thick, hot mud. Called the Electron Mudflow, it was more than 30 meters deep where it entered the Puget Sound lowland where the community of Electron now stands. A little farther down the valley lies Orting. By the time the Electron Mudflow got to Orting it was only 6 meters thick.

Geological evidence indicates that the Electron Mudflow was not caused by a volcanic eruption. What did cause it? Could such a mudflow happen again in this valley? Today the towns of Auburn, Sumner, and Orting sit atop of that ancient mudflow. It is likely that one day another mudflow will follow the same path. Thousands of lives are at risk.

An automated system is being planned that will monitor the slopes of Mt. Rainier for mudflows, and alert the residents below. Once the system is working, it has been estimated that the 5000 residents of Orting will have between 50 minutes and 4 hours and 20 minutes to evacuate.

Your committee has decided to use a Landsat image with elevation lines on it to select the best path for the new escape road.


Click on yellow box in the Landsat image below. You will be taken to a closeup of the Orting, WA area. Decide the best way to use the closeup image to help you select a path for the escape road.

Orting Area Mt.

Image prepared by Janet Chien ,NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


Prepare a map of the area showing your proposed route for the new escape road. On a 3 x 5 card, list the advantages of the route you have selected, and give your estimate of the time it will take to completely evacuate the town.

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