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Finally! Mount St. Helens snow retreats; road opening

PUBLIC LANDS — The seemingly rentless grip of snow on the high country is giving way.

Road No. 25 on the east side of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument will be open from Pine Creek to Randle by Friday.

Paul Seitz of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest said the snow will be cleared by Thursday, then crews will turn their attention on road No. 99 leading to Windy Ridge.

“We'll start pushing through the 99 by Friday,'' Seitz said. “There is still a lot of snow up there and who knows what kind of damage we’ll find as we work our way in.”

Many secondary roads remain closed by lingering snow.

“In my 21 years on this forest, this is the latest opening we've ever had,'' said Ron Freeman, GPNF public services manager.

Mount St. Helens calm on anniversary of eruption

VOLCANOES — No rumblings from Mount St. Helens today, the 31st anniversary of the volcano’s explosive eruption that killed 57 people — and created a fascinating new landscape to explore.

The jagged snow-covered crater has been mostly quiet since the most-recent dome building eruption ended in 2008, leaving a mound in the crater.

Scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver say Mount St. Helens probably will have another dome-building eruption within the next several decades.

U. S. Geological Survey scientist Cynthia Gardner says the volcano has a history of destroying and rebuilding itself.

The Columbian reports scientists believe the magma under the mountain is more likely to cause dome-building eruptions rather than another explosive blast.

31 years later

SR archive photo (May 1980)/J. Bart Rayniak

Today is the 31st Anniversay of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, so to mark the day I dug out a picture of the event taken by SR Valley Voice photographer J. Bart Rayniak. This has always been one of my favorite photos and it hangs on a wall in a hallway in the downtown SR newsroom. We also have on our web site a great “then and now” slideshow by SR photographer Christopher Anderson.

Three decades ago this date…

Good morning, Netizens…


Where were you when Mount St. Helens blew its stack more than thirty years ago? I've always wondered how the Seattle PI got some of its breathtaking photographs of the early stages of the volcanic eruption, and in retrospect now I know it was a staff photographer who was sent by plane to get pictures, and thus cemented a place in journalistic history for himself.


As for me, I was deep in the heart of the Yakima Basin doing some software research for a client and about to head home via Ellensburg, Moses Lake and back to Spokane. It was just before dawn, as I recall, and I was driving in the pre-dawn light on an otherwise innocuous Sunday morning, and although I was aware that St. Helens was active, nothing could have prepared me for how I was to spend the rest of my day once the mountain came to life, erupted and changed the lives of so many people forever.


At 8:32 AM PDT the mountain literally blew its stack, and my only initial awareness of it was when a boulder, about half the size of a Volkswagen, bounced off the Interstate highway about a quarter-mile ahead of me, and when I slowed my truck down to figure this event out, as I turned I could see what others have called “the cloud” which told me that St. Helens had popped its cork, and I needed to get out .. FAST.


By the time I pulled into Ellensburg in the beginnings of the ash flow, and remembering a trick an old friend of mine once told me about volcanic ash, I stopped at the 7-11 and bought nearly their entire supply of women's pantyhose. In retrospect, that was the only trick I used, one that allowed me to keep driving through the ash clouds, and eventually make it back home. Had I not known the trick of stuffing pantyhose or nylons down the throat of my carburetor, or better yet, known of a few side roads around the various roadblocks the Highway Patrol erected along the Interstate, I probably would have been stranded, as so many people were, somewhere along the road for days, perhaps even weeks.


As fate would have it, my poor red Ford pickup suffered considerable damage despite my intrepidity and cleverness, and by the time I pulled into my Stevens County residence later that day, all the paint on the front of the cab was gone, leaving bare metal, the chrome on the front bumper was badly glazed, as was the windshield, all the victims of the ash I had driven through making my way home.


Today, three decades ago, touched a lot of lives, and in my reverie this morning, I cannot help but wonder about how things could have been different. So, looking back those many years, where were you when you first realized Mount St. Helens had erupted?



Mount St. Helens observatory opens May 15

VOLCANOES — The Johnston Ridge Observatory — the major facility attraction in the 110,000-acre  Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument — will reopen for the season on Sunday, May 15 — three days before the anniversary of the 1980 eruption.

The center closes each winter because snow makes the road impassable. It will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October. Admission to JRO and Coldwater Lake is $8 per person, kids 15 and younger free.

As usual, admission is free on the day of the eruption anniversary, which falls on a Wednesday this year.

In addition to a stunning view into the volcano's crater, the Johnston Ridge center also has live seismographs, geologic exhibits, an eruption movie, ranger talks and a bookstore. Several of the exhibits have been enhanced or refurbished for this season using donations and federal stimulus funds.

Improvements include a newly modeled high definition theater with surround sound, interactive touch screens, audio translation devices and new interpretive signs and facilities.

Road info: (360) 449-7800.

Mount St. Helens Plus 30 Years

After several months of seismic buildup, Mount St. Helens’ eruption on May 18, 1980, may have been among the most anticipated in modern history. But the size and force of the blast, the landslide and mudflow from superheated snow were far beyond expectations. A magnitude-5.1 earthquake below the volcano triggered a blast that blew out the top 1,300 feet of the volcano, pushing some 3.7 billion cubic yards of debris to the north and west. Temperatures in the blast zone reached an estimated 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Trees were snapped off and laid down like dominoes. An avalanche of debris rushed down the North Toutle River, raising it as much as 600 feet in some spots, wiping out bridges and burying roads. Fifty-seven people died/Jim Camden, SR. More here.

Question: What were you doing when the mountain blew up?