"Mount St. Helens ~ Born of Fire & Ice" Top 5 Page for this destination Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument by starship

What Happened The Morning of May 18, 1980

What were you doing on May 18, 1980? Was the eruption of Mount St. Helens the kind of event where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news? The eruption of Mount St. Helens was a natural disaster so monumental that it could only be rivaled by other natural disasters in American history such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906!

On that spring day in 1980 at 8:32am, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake was followed seconds later by the monumental collapse of Mount St. Helens' summit which literally blew off the north face of the mountain and released a lateral blast that changed the mountain forever!! Or at least until the next eruption....

The Eruption and Its Impact

The powerful earthquake had suddenly released and spewed forth the gas rich magma and super-heated groundwater which had been trapped inside the mountain. The resulting lateral blast literally flattened 230 miles of forest in less than 3 minutes! The magma had melted the snow & ice mantle of the volcano causing a landslide and flood said to cover 5 miles in about 40 seconds, or the area between the volcano and what is now Johnstons Ridge Observatory. Volcanic ash and pumice, shot 15 miles into the atmosphere, was so thick that day became night and everything was engulfed in a smothering cloud across eastern Washington state. The darkness was so complete that streetlights automatically lit at 9:50 in the morning in cities such as Yakima, Ellensburg, and Ritzville. Heavy concentrations of ash were swept over states as far east as Idaho, Montana and beyond. Within a matter of minutes, the enormous landslide and blast had ceased but the eruption column, mudflows and pyroclastic flows continued through the following morning. Sadly, 57 people lost their lives during this event.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath of the eruption, the devastation was clear. Old growth forests lay leafless and flattened into a pattern that resembled flattened fur at a distance or as some would describe it, as a lunar landscape. Pictures I have seen made the downed trees look like a herringbone pattern to me. Further on, melting snow & ice, and mudflows carrying debris caused another type of death & destruction on the Toutle River.

Mount St. Helens Today

Decades later, Mount St. Helens would let us know that she was only sleeping and not to be forgotten. In September, 2004, a white plume of smoke filled the sky above the volcano! Thousands of small earthquakes were recorded, but Mount St. Helens is biding her time.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Magnificent beyond belief!
  • Cons:It could all happen again!
  • In a nutshell:Formidable, Breathtaking, You Won't Want to Leave
  • Last visit to Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument: Jun 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (9)

Comments (36)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Mar 14, 2015 at 6:59 PM

    I enjoyed reading this page. I do remember where I was when the eruption happened. I was visiting my Grandmother when the news broke.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Mar 16, 2015 at 5:41 AM

      John, thanks for my visiting MSH's page. What a fascinating place this was! Pretty cool you remember where you were & who you were with that day!

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jun 18, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    An interesting page. I don't remember where I was, but I do remember hearing about the eruption!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jun 19, 2014 at 5:15 AM

      Thank you, Dee, for visiting and rating this page. Funny how events such as this sometimes remain in your memory forever. Even after such a devastating eruption, Mount Saint Helen's really is a beautiful area today. But hope it never erupts again!!

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Jun 19, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      Disasters tend to stay with you. I remember a friend arriving home and saying to me have you heard the news and I said no. She said Princess Dianna is dead, and I said no, can't be true. I always remember where I was when I first heard the news.

  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    An interesting page, Sylvia! Luckily I was far away from the Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jul 24, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Sergey, thanks for visiting. Glad I wasn't nearby that day either. But, it's nice to see how much has changed since that day!

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    Mount St. Helens really is a beautiful site to see. Too bad it will always be infamous for the eruption. Good to know that nature eventually bounced back.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jul 8, 2013 at 4:43 AM

      Hi Lori, thanks for visiting my pages!! This was such a beautiful area that it was hard to believe something that had affected so many people had happened here!

  • bijo69's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Great page Sylvia. Too bad I missed Mt. St. Helens when I worked at the Paradise Inn in Mt. Rainier NP.

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Apr 9, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Hi Birgit! I guess we're even because I really did not get to visit Mt. Ranier NP. Are you ever planning a return visit to the USA?

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2013 at 5:34 AM

    Sylvia, lovely little page about the "Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument" Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument is probably the longest term in the VT database - I must admit that I have never heard the expression "cookie-cutter hotel". *winkygrin* and *verybigsmile*

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Feb 13, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    Very interesting page Sylvia. I especially enjoyed reading your very well-written introduction. I would love to visit here one day!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Feb 13, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      This is another place where I was fascinated by the scenery and by the facts of the eruption. Hope you are able to visit here one day soon!

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jun 21, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Neat page Slyvia. I have a wolf sculpture that is made out from the volcanic rock from Mt. Saint Helens. I bought at Yellowstone of all places. I will not forget that day myself.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Mar 30, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    What a great natural place to visit I do like this type of place

  • Dec 19, 2009 at 3:38 PM

    Were was I May 18, 1980? I was 4 days from turning a year old, living in a trailer at Kennewick, Washington.


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