Mount St. Helen’s explained

“This is it!”

On May 18, 1980,  Mount St. Helen’s erupted in Washington State. This eruption killed nearly 57 people and was to be a major event of the century. The volcano was activated on March 20th due to the earthquakes that were happening.  The first earthquake that awakened the volcano was 4.2 on the Richter scale.  From March 25 to March 27, 4.0 earthquakes were felt.  On the 27th the first eruption of steam shot up about 6,000 feet.  This is when a  Hazard watch was placed.  

On May 18th, a 5.1 earthquake was felt.  At 8:32 am., Mount St. Helen’s erupted sideways.  The famous recording from David A. Johnston was…”Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” was heard.  That was his last recording. Where he was camped was in the direct blast zone.   It was not expected that the volcano would erupt sideways.  Ash and rock flew and fell in a mushroom cloud.

Picture of David A. Johnston using a correlation spectrometer

Source: USGS via Wikipedia David was using a correlation spectrometer

On scene.

Howard Berkes recalls his experience covering the Mount St. Helen’s explosion,

“The next day, after talking my way past a roadblock, I got my first view of the mountain. The summit was gone. Ash poured out of the new crater, climbing miles into the sky. Blue lightning flashed in the cloud. Downwind, for hundreds of miles, the day turned to night. Schools were closed, roads were closed, airports were closed. Burly men bought pantyhose to wrap around their carburetors and protect engines from the ash. Facemasks covered mouths. Ash fell like heavy snow.”

Source: USGS

Richard Waitt wrote a book “In the Path of Destruction:  Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helen’s”.  It tells of amazing stories of survivors.  Looking back imagining what must’ve gone through the minds of the survivors, is shocking.  A couple of the stories are:

-A man took cover under a log with his two boys, and one asked: “Daddy, are we going to live with Jesus?

His father replied, “Well … Maybe, but not now.

-A geologist in an airplane that was red-lining at 220 mph screamed to the pilot: “Go  faster!”  The eruption destroyed many wonderful things also. On the site,  it shows a count of some of the destruction.  200 homes destroyed. 185 roads destroyed.  It also shows how many animals were destroyed.  6,000 black-tailed deer, 1400 coyote, 5200 Elks, etc. were killed and 200 sq. miles of forestland was destroyed.   

What we learned.

Because of this eruption, there was more interest in volcanology.  Scientists have been studying intently ever since.  After the eruption, scientists were able to predict when the next eruption would be for Mount St. Helen’s.   They were able to get to a safe spot before it erupted.  Although, none have been at the same magnitude of the 1980 eruption.  

Source: Photo: Harry Glicken/U.S. Geological Survey via Mount St. Helen’s 1980

Scientists have also been able to learn from Mount St. Helen’s to develop better technology.  In 2008, some new explosions of volcanic ash and gases gave the scientists an opportunity to test newly developed remote instruments.  Now, we also have remote drones that can capture live video and thermal readings of the magma flow.  These help the volcanologists to study and be safe.  Now because of these developments, we should be able to have a lot of warning before it happens.  

Another thing we learn from such a catastrophe is, where there is destruction, there is creation.   It is great to see life renew.  No matter if it is fire, flood, or an eruption of a volcano.  There is hope. To see more articles and tips concerning weather go to 



Source: Photo: Harry Glicken/U.S. Geological Survey via Mount St. Helen’s Now


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