May 18, 2020, marks the 40th anniversary of the Mt St Helens volcanic eruption, which claimed the lives of more than 50 people in northwest US. On May 18, 1980, the Mt St Helens volcano situated in Washington erupted, leading to 57 deaths and $1.1bn (£843m) worth of property damage after it deposited ash in 11 different states and five Canadian provinces.
The eruption of the 2,550 metre tall volcano was described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as “the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States”.
The majority of the 57 deaths were a result of asphyxiation from the inhaling of hot ash.
Experts believe Americans will not have seen the last of activity from Mt St Helens, as they warn it will erupt again.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS): “We know that Mount St Helens is the volcano in the Cascades most likely to erupt again in our lifetimes.
“The exact timing and magnitude of the next eruption cannot be forecast decades in advance, but an actively growing scientific knowledgebase and continued monitoring will enable the USGS to provide short- term forecasts and warnings in advance.”
However, experts believe there may be a wait before the next eruption, with it exploding every 100-300 years on average, according to Dr Mike Garcia of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.
He said: “Yes, it is extremely likely that Mt St Helens will erupt again. The average eruption recurrence interval is every 100-300 years.”
The 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens is one of the most deadly in recent US history.
Rich Marriott, a meteorologist for the Forest Service Avalanche Center, and who also worked for the local station KING 5, flew to the volcano shortly after the eruption in 1980.
He detailed how it was unlike anything he had ever seen before, comparing the scenes to “hell”.
Mr Marriot told NGW: “The blast from the Mount St Helens eruption scorched the surrounding landscape for nearly 20 miles.
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“The direct blast obliterated everything for a distance of eight miles.
“The shock wave toppled trees in the intermediate blast zone, and you could see burned trees that were left standing in the outer seared zone.
“It seemed like we were flying into hell, not somewhere in the Cascades.”
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