Mount Saint Helens
On May 18, 1980, it was an amazingly beautiful day for May in the Pacific Northwest. Being a Sunday, there were only a few loggers, campers and scientists in the area. Many of these people had thought they were safe because of the mountain's silence. Not even the scientists could predict exactly what was to come.
At 8:32 a.m. a 5.1 magnitude quake struck one mile below the mountain. While there had been literally hundreds of earthquakes at the mountain since March 20th, the unstable north face could not have another one it. Within moments the largest landslide in recorded history removed more than 1,300 feet from the summit and swept away almost the entire north side of the mountain. The elevation of the mountain dropped from 9,677 feet to 8,363 feet. What was once the 9th highest peak in Washington state was suddenly reduced to the 30th highest peak.
The intense high pressure/high teperature steam that escaped, instantly turned more than 70% of the snow and glacial ice on the mountain to water. This massive movement of rock, ash, water and downed trees swept into Spirit Lake and down the north fork of the Toutle River Valley at speeds in excess of 175 miles per hour.
Despite the devastation left behind on May 18th, not everything in the blast zone was destroyed. Many animals and plants who were fortunate enough to be beneath the spring snowpack or underground, soon found their way through the thick ash to the surface. Several lakes that were still frozen over went like untouched even though all the life around them was destroyed. The presence of plant life attracted deer and elk to return to the area. With their wanderings, they stirred up even more ash, freeing seeds and shoots of...