MSH80_eruption_mount_st_helens_05-18-80-dramatic-editWhen Mt. St. Helens blew its top twenty-three years ago today, the explosion was so powerful, it was 1,600 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.

Despite weeks of warning earthquakes and the extraordinary work of geologists who had kept the public away from the volcano despite tourism pressure, fifty-seven people died in the resulting explosions, lava flows and pyroclastic clouds that belched out from the volcano.

Lava and pulverized rock moved so fast it overtook the avalanching north face.  One of the victims caught in this racing river was photographer 800px-Reid_Blackburns_car_after_May_18,_1980_St._Helens_eruptionReid Blackburn, who was in his car.

After the initial explosion and venting, the top of Mt. St. Helens was lowered by 400 feet.  Over the next two decades, minor venting and explosions have rebuilt the summit, but there have been no major eruptions like the May 18, 1980 one, which has been classified as the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States.

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