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Discovery Magazine 12/1/1999


PARICUTÍN—THE VOLCANO THAT GREW OUT OF A CORNFIELD

by  Rhonda Thompson

On February 20, 1943, something amazing and frightening happened in a cornfield in a remote part of the country of Mexico. After a couple of weeks of strange underground noises and Earth tremors, the Paricutín (pah-rah-koo-teen) volcano erupted and a mountain began to form!

The people of the nearby village of Michoacán (meech-o-ah-cahn) could see fiery lava shoot into the air. Over five miles away, the people of the village of San Juan Parangaricutiro (sahn whahn pah-rahn-gar-ee-koo-tee-ro) were warned about the eruption when the shaking ground made the local church bells ring all by themselves. A river of lava began to flow very slowly toward Michoacán, and thick volcanic ash covered roofs and roads.  The ash killed many animals and covered the fields, which prevented crops from being harvested that year; soon there was a lack of food. Frightened villagers thought the end of the world had come.

The lava moved slowly toward San Salvador Paricutín until the entire town was completely covered. The speed of the lava increased over the next several months. In April 1944, the cemetery of the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro was covered, forcing the people of the town to move to a nearby valley. (Amazingly enough, no one was killed by the lava or ash, but three people were killed by lightning in storms that happened during the eruptions!)

The lava flow and eruption of Paricutín continued for nine years! Most of the volcanic explosions happened during the first year, causing the cone of the volcano to grow to 1,100 feet in height. Over the next eight years, the cone grew only 290 feet. The lava flow had covered about ten square miles by the time it stopped in 1952.

Today, the hot, red lava has cooled into a black, hard volcanic rock, but there still are places warm to the touch. Very few plants live on this rock, which glitters in the Sun like a black jewel.

The explosion of Paricutín gave men an opportunity to watch the birth, growth, and death of a volcano. They were able to witness a great force of nature created by our all-powerful God.



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