Mexico has raised its alert levels due to the grumblings and rumblings of the Popocatepetl volcano, affectionately known as Popo, 43 miles southeast of Mexico City.
Popocatepetl is an Aztec word meaning “smoking mountain,” and that’s just what it’s been for several weeks.
Popo stepped up activity in recent days, spewing towers of ash, steam and gas and some incandescent rocks into the air and shaking the ground near its base, according to Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center.
As a precaution and as part of its contingency plan, the center set up several shelters and warned residents near the volcano to prepare for a potential evacuation.
So far, Popo has not disrupted flights, although during a heavy ash rain on May 8, one flight out of nearby Puebla was canceled.
Popo was dormant for decades until 1994, when it began to stir. The volcano, which towers more than 17,000 feet above sea level, last erupted in 2003, spewing lava around the snow-capped crater and bringing ash down on Mexico City.
If the alert level moves up a notch, a voluntary evacuation order for residents of nearby villages will be issued. Bells will ring in town squares to notify residents. If the ash clouds move near Mexico City, officials will distribute facemasks.
Right now, Popo is putting on a dramatic but not dangerous show for visitors to Mexico City, Puebla and surrounding towns.