Mount St Helens Eruption: 30th Anniversary


Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 — 10:27am PST
Comments 8

After hearing the loud rumble that caused the curtains to blow in my mother walked over to the crib to check on me. It was Mother’s Day. She thought the noise came from someone slamming lids on dumpsters but soon found out on the news that Mount St Helens in Washington State had erupted. I was 5 months old and fast asleep so this is where my personal account ends.

What seemed like neighbourhood noise to my mother in Surrey, BC was far more destructive in Skamania County, Washington.

  • This was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States [source].
  • Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. The eruption caused a massive debris avalanche, reducing the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,365 ft (2,550 m) and replacing it with a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater [source].
  • The eruption came with an earthquake that rocked 5.1 on the Richter scale [source].
  • The largest landslide in recorded history swept down the mountain at speeds of 70 to 150 miles per hour and buried the North Fork of the Toutle River under an average of 150 feet of debris. Some areas are covered by as much as 600 feet. In all, approximately 23 square miles of material was removed from the mountain [source].

The volcano, which was actually named by Captain George Vancouver [source] still has recorded volcanic activity. This includes steam clouds that sent everyone in this digital age over to the Volcanocam to check out the volcano in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Thirty years later, National Geographic reports that Mount St Helens is still highly dangerous and that Washington State is the second biggest threat when it comes to potential volcanic activity. Mount St Helens is also only second only to Hawaii’s Kilauea when it comes to a “very high risk” of volcanic activity.

Today you can still get out and enjoy the area, filled with hiking trails, recreational activities, and amazing lookout points.


Photo credit: papalars on Flickr

You can also follow @MountStHelens on Twitter for the latest updates from the volcano, browse the 360 degree crater view, or keep your eye on the Volcanocam for any activity.

As a side note, I think it’s incredibly awesome that the WAstateDNR – Department of Natural Resources posted the photos (captioned above) to Flickr for the anniversary

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8 comments

  1. fotoeins says:

    Wow – thirty years; how time has flown. Thanks for this, Rebecca.

  2. My memories are more direct. I was almost 11, and obsessed with volcanoes in a boyish way. My Scout troop was camping at Furry Creek up Howe Sound, and we thought a train had crashed nearby:

    http://www.penmachine.com/2010/05/30-years-after-mt-st-helens

  3. Lauralee says:

    Oh Rebecca, you have written a wonderful remembrance of the MSH’s eruption. I do remember it well. We were all loading into the car on Mother’s Day in Surrey. Even that far away we knew something big had happened. You even shared info on this post that I had not formerly known. Very interesting overall. Thanks.

  4. Mom604 says:

    Yes, it was Mother’s Day, and I remember looking at the window when I heard the ‘bang’ and a few seconds later, the curtains blew in a bit.

  5. MSH 30th Anni says:

    Mother’s Day was the week before on May 11th. Mother’s Day should be everyday… ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyways, the volcano blew up on Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend. We were camping up at Pitt Lake, British Columbia on the beach and heard the blasts numerous times. Not sure what it was at first, other than wondering if the mountains surrounding us was going to crash onto us. Scary! We found out later that Mount St Helens exploded from the other people that returned up to the lake. Erie feeling though, especially when our dog was barking and was going nuts moments before ‘we’ heard the loud blasts. Animals with better hearing give us humans a warning too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. MSH 30th Anni says:

    Excellent Mount St Helens pics & info. Good job Rebecca. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I was 9 months pregnant with my first daughter and living in Vancouver, B.C. when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted. Like most pregnant women I used the bathroom often. The moment of the eruption coincided with one of my many toilet flushes and the resounding boom made me think the plumbing had burst! Imagine all the way to Vancouver. The result was a few hours of “false” labour, followed by the real thing a week later and Andrea Rebecca was born. About 18 years later, I hiked to the top of the crater which was an intense physical workout leading to a breathtaking view. Andrea celebrates her 30th birthday this week.

  8. margot rogers says:

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