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Then and Now: Mount St. Helens

05.18.15

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Then and Now: Mount St. Helens

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  • Mount St Helens, pre-1980 eruption. Copyright Bruce Molnia, Terra Photographics.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Mount St. Helens on May 17, 1980, one day before the devastating eruption. The view is from Johnston's Ridge, 6 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of the volcano. Photo is courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Mount St Helens erupts in Skamania County. Photo is courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • This is Mount St. Helens during the eruption on May 18, 1980. Note the violence of the eruption in contrast with the quiet countryside. Mount Adams can be seen in the background to the right. Photo is courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • After the May 18, 1980 eruption, the elevation of Mount St. Helens was only 8,364 feet, and the volcano had a mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater that is seen here from the northwest. Photo is courtesy of the USGS Cascade Volcano Observatory.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Outdoor Project Contributor Josh Lupkin takes in a beautiful sight: looking into the crater of Mount St. Helens (8,364') from Norway Pass. - Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Steam rising from the Mount St. Helens caldera and the ever-growing central dome. - Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • View of Mount St. Helens (8,364') from Johnston Ridge. - Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Climbers looking toward Mount Adams (12,280') from the crater rim. - Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Looking west along the crater rim to the true summit. - Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
  • Mount St. Helens scale comparison.- Then and Now: Mount St. Helens
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Team

It was 35 years ago today that Mount St. Helens exploded in what is noted as one of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in U.S. history. On May 18, 1980, an early morning earthquake located about a mile below the volcano and measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale caused the entire north face of the mountain to collapse. This sent a massive rock and ice avalanche down the mountain, barreling into Spirit Lake and 14 miles down the Toutle River. The avalanche relieved pressure on the heated groundwater and cleared the way for a lateral blast that spewed debris across 150 square miles of forest and sent a column of ash 15 miles into the air. 

In 1982 the 110,000-acre area was protected as the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument, and recovery has come a long way since the landscape and ecosystem were devastated that May morning in 1980.

There are a number of ways to experience Mount St. Helens, but it's certainly worth a stop at the Johnston Ridge Observatory to learn more about the volcano's history and to see how nature has worked to reclaim the once dead lands.

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