Tomorrow, May 18th, at 8:32am Pacific Time, marks the 25th anniversary of the "Big Eruption" at Mt. St. Helens, in SW
Following two months of reawakening activity, and a huge bulge that grew at a rate of 9 feet a day on the northeast side, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake shook the mountain, unleashing the largest avalanche in recorded history. While there is no live footage, several still pictures were taken of the landslide sequence, which are amazing. Following the landslide which rose Spirit Lake by some 200 feet, a massive lateral blast shot out of the mountain at a speed near Mach 1 and leveled the forest for miles, destroying some 230 square miles. Countless birds and fish were destroyed, along with 57 people, most of whom were outside the "red-zone", and had no idea the mountain had erupted until they say a towering black cloud coming at them. The famous Harry Truman, who lived at the base of the mountain on the shores of Spirit Lake and refused to leave, is now buried under 200 feet of mud and the new Spirit Lake. They didn't hear the blast up close to the mountain, all they could hear were the falling trees snapping like toothpicks.
The mountain, once 9,677 feet, was reduced to 8,365 feet and left with a horseshoe crater a mile wide. Once the initial lateral blast was over, a vertical column of ash rose to 80,000 feet and circled the earth in 15 days. The eruption lasted 9 hours in all. Since then, there were several more smaller eruptions in the months to follow, and a lava dome began growing shortly thereafter, stopping in 1986. There were swarms of earthquakes in 1998, 2001, and then again last September which brought upon the new lava dome which officially appeared on Oct. 11th, 2004. The first steam eruption in years took place on Friday, Oct. 1st, 2004, and I personally witnessed the Oct. 5th eruption from start to finish...truly amazing...something I'll never forget for the rest of my life.
I have been fascinated by Mt. St. Helens for 25 years...having visited nearly every year and hiked many of the trails in the vicinity. There is nothing quite like standing in the middle of the pumice plain on the Truman trail #207, looking up at the mountain and imagining what happened that day. There are many other views, such as from Harry's Ridge, 5 miles east of the Johnston Ridge Observatory, allowing a "dead-on" view of the crater. It's an amazing place, and if you're ever in SEA
on a spotting trip, I recommend spending a day at Mt. St. Helens as well. It's exit #49 off of I-5, and from either SEA
, it's about 3 1/2 hours to the Johnston Ridge Observatory, though there are centers closer to the freeway. All in all, allow for a full day...contact me via my profile for more detailed information and advice on what to see, where to go, based on your time constraint. Whether or not you hike the trails, it's worth the visit to the centers to learn more about what happened, and see the rebirth that has taken place in a relatively (geologically speaking) short period of time, in the last 25 years.
Back to the 1980 eruption...who lived in this area before, during, and immediately after? Share your thoughts and stories!
[Edited 2005-05-17 21:40:25]
And the winner for best actress is....REESE WITHERSPOON for 'Walk the Line'!!!!!!!!