Thirty years ago, America and the world watched one of the most devastating events to hit American soil – the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.
It was the early morning hours of May 18th, 1980, the 9,677 foot mountain in 96 miles south of Seattle, Washington, 50 miles north of Portland, Oregon, suddenly burst its top at 8:32 A.M., with such force that created one of the most dangerous avalanche debris fields anyone has ever seen in the Pacific Northwest during an eruption of an American Volcano.
The heart of the destruction brought on hot gases from the explosion along with a massive ash cloud that swirled for mile into the earth’s sky and went around the world once it became evident that it had reached the jet stream lifting it eastward.
The destruction took the lives 57 people, including the lives of 83 year old,Harry Truman, who lived out his final days on Spirit Lake for over 50 years, his body was never found. The eruption also took on the life of David Johnston, 30, was a volcanologist with the USGS was posted on Coldwater Ridge before the eruption, Johnston radioed in to Vancouver during the eruption with his now famous words – “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it! Johnston was never heard from again and is presumed to have been killed during the eruption, his body has never been found along with Harry Truman.
Today – life returns to the mountain that once was a popular climbing attraction in Washington State and a beauty to see from the views of Portland, Oregon to the south, the mountain still remains an active volcano according to the United States Geological Society.
Thirty years ago as a young teenager at the age of 14, I remember watching the nightly news reports of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, on the day of the eruption, I was at my grandfathers ranch in Yoncalla, Oregon, while watching a football game, the news broke that the mountain had blew her top earlier that morning.
I had wondered what would become of the mountain after the eruption, only to be greeted with daily newscasts of “ash reports”! It was almost a scene that has been replayed in my mind for years, while I was still in school, I learned what I could about earthquakes and the mixture of volcanology at the same time.
The eruption destroyed 47 bridges, 250 homes, 15 miles of railroad and destroyed over 185 miles of highway and caused billions of dollars in damage and took the lives of 57 people.
It has been learned that a volcanic eruption can take place at anytime and place anywhere in the world. The earth performs in strange ways, but live returns to the area after so many years and becomes part of the ecosystem and its regrowth of the forest surrounding the mountain.
Today, the mountain remains an active volcano, but, the danger still lingers that another major eruption could take place within the mountain in the near future – Its only a matter of time before the mountain awakens like a sleeping giant.