May of 1980, scientists monitoring Mount St.
On May 18, 1980, in Washington state, Mt.
St. Helens erupted with the force comparable
to that of a hydrogen bomb. The explosion
blew off 1,300 feet of the mountain's top
and sent ash and debris more than 12 miles
into the sky covering three states - Washington,
Oregon, and Idaho. Sixty two people were dead,
beautiful forests and lakes were destroyed
resulting in $3 billion worth of damage.
Mt. St. Helens had remained dormant for 123
years. In March of 1980 scientists recorded
seismic tremors from the mountain. State officials
ordered the residents of the area to evacuate
and warned people not to hike in the area.
However, not everyone took heed to the warnings.
Harry Truman, an elderly man living near the
mountain, refused to vacate his home. Within
minutes of the explosion he and his home,
along with other people and homes, were virtually
buried in mud. Thousands of acres of timber
fell over like match sticks. Lakes clogged
with mud. Spirit Lake, adjacent to the mountain,
turned into a mud hole and was littered with
timber. The eruption caused total devastation
to the land, lakes, and forests. Miles away,
the city of Yakima, Washington - population
of 65,000- was affected the worst.
It was a typical spring day with the birds
chirping and the sun shining. However, this
typical day did not last long. About 10:00
a.m. a black cloud covered the city and "snowed"
ash. Neither a street light nor a neighbor's
porch light could be seen as the ash was so
heavy it sank swimming pool covers and caved
in old roofs. Businesses and schools were
closed down and all normal activity in daily
life ceased to exist. Yakima was hit like
a snowstorm and it looked like it from afar.
When the ash stopped coming down and the cloud
clover lifted it remained gray and dreary
for days. Everywhere you looked people wore
surgical masks (to keep from breathing the
ash in) and swept ash off their rooftops.
Any movement stirred up clouds of dust. The
city was a mess, but like any disaster life
moves on and people cope. Yakima was only
inconvenienced by huge amounts of ash and
clean up, while the people and the land near
the mountain suffered total death and destruction.
The fatality rate for Mt. St. Helens could
of been much higher if not for the evacuation
orders and the advances of technology.
The resulting ash eruption rose an amazing 16 miles
into the atmosphere and dropped 500 million tons
of ash - enough to cover an area the size of a football
field 150 miles deep with ash. Temperatures from
the blast exceeded 800 degrees Fahrenheit and within
minutes the devastation obliterated homes, highways
and wildlife. One man who refused to leave his home
on Mount St. Helen, Harry Truman, was buried under
300 feet of the new level of Spirit Lake. The fury
of the Mount St. Helen blast was attributed to the
complex interactions between the Pacific Plate,
North American Plate, and tiny Juan de Fuca plate,
an area known as a triple plate junction.
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