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Mount Saint Helens

A Very Much Alive and Still Dangerous Volcano.

Mount Saint Helens

The May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount Saint Helens was the deadliest and most powerful volcanic eruption in the recorded history of North America

The eruption, instantly blasted the top 1,300 feet of the mountain away; a full cubic mile of earth and rock. This amount of pulverized debris and ash, could cover New York Citys Manhattan Island to a depth of over 400 feet.

The force of the Saint Helens eruption was equivalent to 500 atomic bombs and the mighty roar of the blast was heard by people over 300 miles away.

Over 200 square miles of forest were obliterated or flattened like toothpicks. Cabins and cottages as far away as 20 miles were buried in ash and mud. It is estimated that more than 175,000 wild and domestic animals were killed. Tragically, fifty-seven people perished in this incredible natural disaster.

Ash drifted high into the atmosphere and fell to the east across nine western states and Canada. The economic devastation totaled over one billion US dollars.

Today, from a vantage point high on Harry's Ridge you can peer into the gapping crater on the north face of a still potentially dangerous and active Mount Saint Helens.

Plumes of steam, gas and ash occur periodically and serve as a constant reminder of the potentially lethal forces at work deep within Saint Helens.

A steam plume rises 3,000 feet into the sky, May 19, 1982 (Photo USGS)

On Johnston Ridge, you can also see into the crater and you are also standing directly in what is known as the "lateral blast zone." During the 1980 eruption, a 600 mile an hour, super-heated wind instantly blew out of crater and roared down the mountain slopes, incinerating or flattening everything in its path for a distance of over 12 miles.

Renewed 2004 volcanic activity resulted in magma reaching the surface and forming a new lava dome within the crater.

A steam plume rises 3,000 feet into the sky, May 19, 1982 (Photo USGS)

On March 8, 2005 a minor eruption blasted a plume of steam and ash 36,000 feet into the air that was visible as far away as Seattle Washington.

The path of the May 18, 1980 pyroclastic flow (Photo Dr. Von Zuko 1999)

The 'Whaleback' feature of the new lava dome (Photo USGS)

On October 22, 2006 a 3.5 magnitude earthquake caused a collapse and avalanche inside the crater that sent an ash plume 2,000 feet over the western crater rim. On December 19, 2006 a large steam plume was observed. Mount Saint Helens has been in a state of constant eruption since 2004.

The path of the May 18, 1980 pyroclastic flow

by: Dr. Von Zuko 2007

Dr. Von Zuko's
Top Eight:

The Most Dangerous Volcanoes in the United States. (Descending order)

Active Lava Flow

1.) Kilauea, Hawaii

Currently the most active volcano on earth. It lies against the flank of the Mauna Loa volcano (see #7)

2.) Mount Saint Helens
Washington Cascade Range

3.) Mount Rainier
Washington Cascade Range

4.) Mount Hood
Oregon Cascade Range

5.) Mount Shasta
California Cascade Range

6.) South Sister
Oregon Cascade Range

7.) Mauna Loa
Hawaii and currently the largest volcano on earth.

8.) The Yellowstone Caldera
The Yellowstone Caldera is the volcanic caldera and supervolcano located in Yellowstone National Park

Kilauea lava fountain

Kilauea lava fountain (approx. 10 m high) USGS Photo.

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