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Monday, May 15, 2023, Washington States' famous Mt. St. Helen’s once again proved that she’s in charge as a landslide blocked the road to the Johnson observatory stranding 12 on the mountain for the night. The following morning at 9:30 am, they were rescued by helicopter. The helicopter was only able to pick up four passengers at a time so it took three trips to complete the rescue mission.
The debris field was estimated to be at least 200 yards wide and ten feet deep of vegetation and ground that slid down to block the way back down the curvy mountain trail from the Johnson Observatory. It’s important to understand that there doesn’t have to be a reason for a landslide in this area. The ground is already unstable due to volcanic activity.
One man had headed back down the mountain when he rounded a curve and had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting the debris field. He returned to the Observatory where he had the unsavory task of reporting to his fellow visitors at the Observatory that no one would be leaving that night.
Mt. St. Helen’s Powerful Reminder
Washington’s famous Mt. St. Helen’s is a powerful reminder of how powerful nature truly can be. After nearly a century of dormancy, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted. Ash and volcanic debris devastated an area of over 230 square miles leaving 57 dead.
Ash was floating in the atmosphere for many years after the eruption and it could be seen on the sides of the roads in drifts that were reminiscent of harsh winter snow for many across the state. Fuel filters were clogged, people wore masks to filter out the ash and those who had respiratory issues were cautioned to avoid going outside.
As the 43rd anniversary of the eruption approaches, it seems that the volcano is determined to remain in the news and threaten Washingtonians. This landslide isn’t the first display that Mt. St. Helen’s has put on nor will it be the last.
Visitors have been stunned when the curtain is opened across the window wall in the Johnson Observatory, especially when they see smoke billowing out of the mountain. Visitors to the Observatory can enjoy hiking trails and an interactive show in the many displays in the Observatory.
The volcano is constantly monitored by the US Geological Survey, which tracks seismic activity, ground deformation, gas emissions, and more. The USGS has also noted that the volcano is showing signs of increased activity, with seismic activity and gas emissions in particular rising in recent months.
While the volcano is still considered active, no current activity is expected to be as destructive as the 1980 eruption. Still, Mt. St. Helen's is a powerful reminder of the power of the Earth and how quickly nature can change its course. As the anniversary of the eruption approaches, let's take a moment to remember the lessons of Mt. St. Helen's and appreciate the power of nature.
© Lefty Graves. 2023 All Rights Reserved.