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Mount St Helens erupted and scorched or blew down 230 square miles of forest. Recovery at Mt St Helens continues, almost 32 years later.
The weather was very cloudy the day I arrived back in September, 2004. I drove up the mountain the next day and it was a little clearer at first but the clouds came later and made it hard to see the mountain.
Mount St Helens
Where the mudslide had occurred, these dead, burned trees below, were laying alongside the Toutle river. I saw these on my drive up to the mountain.
Burned Dead Trees
One of the mountain lakes near by.
Named after the young geologist who died that day and whose body was never found, the Johnston Ridge Observatory visitor center is right in front of the crater five miles away and has the best view of the mountain. It was cloudy at the top of the volcano the day I was there so it was very hard to see anything.
Johnston Ridge Observatory
At the bottom of the volcano where the avalanche and mudslide occurred, the green color is due to moss from the rain, when looking down from the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Brown is the normal color.
The canyon below looks small but it is very large. I saw a tour helicopter fly into the canyon.
Blowing down trees, the blast from the eruption had raced up the hill. 230 square miles of forest was flattened, in less than three minutes!
As far as I can see, there are no trees. The blast removed all the trees and left stumps. I could see a small patch of burned trees far away on another hill still standing but most trees were blown away!
Looking at Mount St Helens, the clouds covered the top of the volcano. I would get small glimpses of the crater as the clouds went by.
Looking around me 360 degrees, it is so eerie to see no trees. They are all dead!
A magnitude 5.1 earthquake triggered the collapse of the north flank and summit of Mount St Helens and formed the largest landslide in recorded history, on the morning of May 18, 1980.
In a powerful lateral blast, super heated groundwater and gas rich magma trapped inside the volcano were suddenly released. 230 square miles of forest were flattened in less than three minutes. The hot magma and gas melted the ice and snow that covered the volcano. Surrounding the mountain, the resulting floodwater mixed with the debris and rock to create concrete like mudflows that scoured river valleys.
Transforming day into night across Eastern Washington, a plume of pumice and volcanic ash flowed out of the volcano reaching a height of fifteen miles. Called pyroclastic flows, avalanches of super heated pumice and gas, swept down the flanks of the volcano. The pyroclastic flows, mudflows and eruption column continued throughout the day and following night, while the lateral blast and landslide were over within minutes.
By the following morning the landscape appeared to be a gray wasteland and major eruptive activity had ceased.
The north face of this symmetrical tall mountain had collapsed in a massive rock debris avalanche, shaken by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale. This slab of ice and rock slammed into Spirit Lake, crossed a ridge 1,300 feet high, and roared fourteen miles down the Toutle River, all within a few moments!
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