Saturday, 18 December 2004

Despite the fact that it’s right there in front of my face every time I walk out the door, I’ve started to forget that St Helens is still quite active and spewing steam. A fresh series of four earthquakes (magnitude 2.5 to 3) in the past couple of days and more steam vents prove it. In fact, the mountain is adding new material to the dome growing in the crater at a pretty amazing rate – the equivalent of one dump truck load of new material every second.

This picture was taken this morning from my front porch:


If you’re too young or just plain don’t remember, St. Helens used to be kind of pointy and tall (click the image below for historical photos from before and during the 1980 eruption event:


Scientists say that at this rate, in just 11 years the mountain could be back to the about the same size it was before it completely blew its top back in 1980. There’s no guarantee of that, and lots of variables are involved, of course. However, it’s pretty amazing to note that in just the last couple of months, the new lava dome in the crater has grown one third the size of the dome that took six years to form after the 1980 eruption. Here’s a picture of the growth of the new dome as of November 12, 2004, with a football field graphical overlay for scale purposes:

The mountain remains under what they call a Level Two volcano advisory, meaning the Johnston Ridge visitor center – the one closest to the crater - is still closed, but the Coldwater Creek visitor center is open. For those who cannot visit, the Volcano Cam offers a great view into the crater 24/7.

I have had a lot of inquiries from people who know me (and some who don’t) about how close I live to the mountain. I guess people think we’re all gonna die. We’re not. My house is something like 50 or so miles away as the crow flies, so no worries there.

The latest info can always be found at the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network web site and the USGS Cascade Range web site. KATU News in Portland did a good update, and you can read it on their web site and watch the streaming video of their news report.

By the way – St. Helens is not the only volcano in the area, it’s just the one that’s acting up right now. All the other volcanoes in the Cascade Range are all at normal levels of background seismicity. They include:

  • Mount Baker, in Washington
  • Glacier Peak, in Washington
  • Mount Rainier, in Washington
  • Mount Adams, in Washington
  • Mount Hood, in Oregon
  • Mount Jefferson, in Oregon
  • Three Sisters, in Oregon
  • Newberry, in Oregon
  • Crater Lake, in Oregon
  • Medicine Lake, in northern California
  • Mount Shasta, in northern California
  • Lassen Peak in northern California

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Mt. St. Helens
Saturday, 18 December 2004 12:31:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Saturday, 18 December 2004 19:27:11 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Vary Cool Greg! Wow thats gotta be something wakeing up with a steaming fresh cup of joe walking outside in the crisp fresh air to see a mountain of lava getting bigger each day.... HEHEHE
Sunday, 19 December 2004 15:07:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Just how far is the crater from your place? I keep a daily check on what it is doing too!
Sunday, 19 December 2004 15:32:27 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
It is about 50 miles away as the crow flies - it's in Washington, across rthe Columbia River from where I live. My place is in the far northwest corner of Oregon, in the little horn part that sticks up and out from an otherwise flat northern border. Here's an overkill of info on where I live:
Sunday, 19 December 2004 22:26:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Do you feel quakes? Smell the volcano? Just wondering, because I have no real way to "get" just how far away an active volcano 50 miles away feels...
Sunday, 19 December 2004 22:32:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
No, there's nothing to smell, feel or hear from this distance. I have certainly felt earthquakes in the six years I have lived here, but not ones related to St Helens. They're much more localized and smaller than the ones that get felt over distances.

From 50 or so miles it mostly *looks* pretty cool. :)
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