Disasters · Washington

Mount St Helens eruption

May 18, 1980
Washington
Mount Saint Helens erupts in the deadliest volcanic event in US history

The blast directly killed an estimated 57 people, indirectly killed 2 from poor visibility caused by the ash and 2 from hearts attacks from shoveling ash, caused $1.1 billion in damage, left a crater in the north side of the mountain, caused the largest recoded landslide in history, scorched hundreds of square miles of land, and killed thousands of wild animals.

The ash column raised 15 miles into the sky, and ash was deposited in 11 states. The landslide was a result of snow, ice, and glaciers melted by the explosion causing lahars (volcanic mudslides) which traveled as fast as 90 mph on the volcano’s slopes and slowed to as low as 3 mph on more level areas.

Some of the victims include: Reid Blackburn, photographer, whose car is pictured; Robert Landsburg, photographer, who died from the ash cloud but was able to shield his camera mostly preserving photographs of the cloud before it consumed him, also pictured; David Johnston, geologist, who was reporting the explosion and transmitted “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before being swept away by the explosion (his body was never recovered); and Harry R. Truman, innkeeper, who steadfastly refused to evacuate.

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