Tuesday, May 18, 2010

30 Years--A Blip in Geologic Time

 majestic Mt. St. Helens

 still majestic in a new way

For 30 years now, Pacific Northwest residents have paid special attention to what remains of Mt. St. Helens. Before the May 18, 1980 eruption its conic beauty was likened to Mt. Fuji, but since then it has had a flattish appearance, as if a good portion of the top had been sliced clean-off with a very large butcher knife.

We lived in southwestern Idaho at the time of the eruption, and the ashfall barely skipped us. My friend from Othello, Washington said her family was in church that Sunday morning when word of the surprise 8:32 a.m. eruption arrived, and worshipers went right home. Her photos show a roiling jet-black sky heading straight for them, a catastrophe of alarming proportion. Now farmers revel in their improved soil.

For four years, 2004-2008, the mountain was again in eruption stage. At first it was closed to visitors and climbers, but in 2006 restrictions were lifted during the eruption, and of course we had to get a front-row-seat on that event. Read about that experience right here

Because today is the 30th anniversary of the violent eruption that radically changed the mountain and its surroundings, there have been some major progress reports on the mountain's "recovery." One report included original footage of news reports on that day in 1980. For some days no one could get near enough for a close-up view of the damage, so some of the speculation voiced by reporters now sounds ridiculous: 'we don't know how much damage has been done to the lodge and cabins on Spirit Lake' [answer: they were obliterated and Spirit Lake has basically vanished] and 'perhaps Harry Truman was able to get into his cave and survived' [answer: he was instantly vaporized and buried under hundreds of feet of debris].

For a fascinating report on the mountain's eruption and recovery, click  here

And happy 32nd birthday to Daniel!

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