On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens sent a plume of ash, smoke and debris skyward as it erupted. Today is the 40th anniversary of the eruption that killed more than 50 people and blasted more than 1,300 feet off the mountain’s peak. (Jack Smith/Associated Press file)

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens sent a plume of ash, smoke and debris skyward as it erupted. Today is the 40th anniversary of the eruption that killed more than 50 people and blasted more than 1,300 feet off the mountain’s peak. (Jack Smith/Associated Press file)

Virus interrupts St. Helens eruption anniversary plans

  • Monday, May 18, 2020 8:29pm
  • News

The Associated Press

COUGAR — The coronavirus outbreak disrupted what had been big plans to mark the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

The peak in the Cascade Mountain Range blew its top on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people, blasting more than 1,300 feet off the top of the mountain and raining volcanic ash around for hundreds of miles.

But there will be no public observances at the volcano today.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the main highway into the national volcanic monument is closed due to COVID-19, and the multiple visitor centers and museums that had planned remembrances are also shuttered.

“We’ve been thrown for quite a loop here,” said Washington State Parks interpretive specialist Alysa Adams. “Please stay tuned for next year because I think we’re going to take all of this energy and passion and turn it into something productive for the 41st anniversary.”

Several agencies are presenting talks and experiences online.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and Washington State Parks scheduled separate 40th anniversary livestream presentations Monday night.

The eruption produced huge black and gray clouds of ash that rose more than 80,000 feet and eventually poured tiny granules of debris in cities and towns throughout the Northwest.

The peak had experienced many smaller eruptions on the weeks preceding the big event. Within minutes of a 5.1 earthquake that hit at 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980, the volcano’s north flank collapsed, triggering the largest landslide in recorded history. The explosion scorched and flattened about 230 square miles of dense forest.

And Mount St. Helens may not be done yet. In September 2000, the volcano rumbled back to life with a swarm of tiny, shallow quakes. The first of a series of small explosions on Oct. 1 shot volcanic ash and gases into the air. A lava dome began to rise in the volcano’s crater, building slowly over three years during the eruption period that lasted from 2004-08.

More in News

Three deaths from COVID in Clallam County

North Olympic Peninsula now has lost 91 to virus

Volunteers A.J. Laverty, left, and Marsha Hamacher organize the winter outfits at the Community United Methodist Church’s clothing room. The room is open for free shopping on Saturdays. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Former prosecutor running church resource room

Port Hadlock pastor helps provide food, tents and clothing

Culvert replacement delayed in Port Angeles

Projects will disrupt traffic significantly

Northwest residents urged to stay alert as storms roll in

Weather officials urged Northwest residents to remain alert as more rain was… Continue reading

Toys for Tots collections set across Clallam County

The Mount Olympus Detachment 897 of the Marine Corps… Continue reading

<strong>Matthew Nash</strong>/Olympic Peninsula News Group
Craig Tenhoff prepares to hand off candy canes to place along Diamond Point Road earlier this month as the road was transformed into Holiday Lane. Each year since 2007, residents have lined the road with Christmas decorations for nearly 4 miles starting from the road’s intersection at U.S. Highway 101. About 35 volunteers helped hang ornaments, candy canes and banners.
Community shows Christmas spirit

Craig Tenhoff prepares to hand off candy canes to place along Diamond… Continue reading

Some flooding reported on Peninsula; rain in forecast

Weekend storm doesn’t live up to lofty expectations

Weekly flight operations scheduled

There will be field carrier landing practice operations for aircraft… Continue reading

Most Read