Mt. St. Helens, WA 6/10 - 6/11/00

We are staying at Seaquest State Park. It is located about 50 miles from Mt. St. Helens. We arrived here about noon on Saturday so we decided to take the drive up to the visitors center and the view point for the mountain. Unfortunately it has been raining on and off the the last two weeks and today was no exception. So I took whatever pictures I could between rain drops. Here it is in June and we drove through snow coming back from the visitor center.

Sunday 6/11 was more of the same weather so we spent about three hours touring another Visitor Center across from the campground. WE AM READY FOR SOME SUNSHINE!! (1 of 5)

 

This area, like the Grand Canyon, cannot be appreciated until you view it for yourself. The blast was so powerful that it devastated over 250 square miles of forest. Even after 20 years the area next to the mountain is still barren of trees. The Park Service is letting the area resurrect naturally so they can study the rebirth and regeneration of the area. They estimate that in 100 years the area will look like it did prior to the eruption. The previous eruption was in 1840 and actually deposited more ash than the 1980 eruption. However, it was an upward blast and probably did not take out the trees like this one did.
Mt. St. Helens is the in the background with the snow streaks on it. The elevation of the mountain before May 18, 1980 was 9,677 feet and now it is 8,364 feet. The crater in the top of the mountain is 1.2 miles wide and 2.4 miles long. One cubic mile of rock or 12 percent of the mountain was removed during the eruption. This is the side that received the full effect of the blast. All the soil you see was deposited by the explosion. There were two new lakes (not show here) created by the mud flows and debris that blocked river valleys. (2 of 5)


This is an example of the damage done to trees. This tree, probably 40 inches in diameter, was on the North slope of a ridge located about six miles from the blast. The North slope is facing away from the volcano and yet the force of the blast still shredded the tree. Some of these trees were up to seven feet in diameter.

There were 57 people who died in the vicinity that Sunday morning May 18, 1980. The nearest survivor was over nine miles away. The mountain was expected to blow upward, but instead it blew laterally toward the North and was far more powerful than anyone expected. One of the casualties of the blast was a USGS geologist who was monitoring the mountain seven miles from the blast. This was expected to be a safe distance. The blast traveled at a speed of over 300 mph so the seven miles was bridged in just over a minute. Hardly enough time to even consider an escape route. The lateral blast pulverized, incinerated or blew away virtually everything in a fan shaped swath of destruction extending 17 miles from the crater; and it all happened in just over 10 minutes. Many of those who perished that morning, died of asphyxiation from the dust cloud.

Another amazing phenomenon was a cone of silence that extended over the area. None of the survivors heard the mountain erupt. They heard the thrashing and snapping of trees but no sound of the eruption. Yet people over 100 miles away heard what sounded like dynamite and sonic booms. One of the theories is the dust was so thick it absorbed the sound of the eruption. (3 of 5)


This is just some of the colorful rebirth taking place naturally. Wild flowers were some of the first signs of life on the hillside after the eruption Especially Lupine (not pictured here), because it manufactures its own nitrogen. This was important since the volcanic ash is totally barren of any nutrients for growth of normal plants. (4 of 5)




A panoramic view of the Toutle River valley.
This is one of the valleys that was scoured by a mud flow resulting from the eruption. You can just make out the white ribbon of river in the center. That is how wide the river is now and how wide it was prior to the volcano. The remainder of the gray area was a result of the mud slide. The gray area is all volcanic soil deposited by the mud flow. (5 of 5)