1.5 thousand Hiroshima: a chronicle of the most catastrophic volcano eruption in USA

May 18, 1980, about three hundred people gathered to watch the eruption of mount St. Helens (which means “Saint Helena”) in Washington state in the United States. Unfortunately, they did not know, that is a beautiful sight there’s a real hell on earth. 42.TUT.BY recalls that day, which killed nearly 60 people and the area in the vicinity of the volcano turned into a lifeless landscape.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: a video frame YouTube/Smithsonian Channel

How it all began: a small earthquake and a stubborn old man at the foot of the mountain

The mount St. Helens remained silent with his latest activity in the 1840s and 1850s years up to March 1980. A few small earthquakes on 15 March 1980 showed that under the volcano might have begun a movement of magma. 20 March has recorded a small earthquake center under the North slope that signaled the reawakening of the volcano after 123 years of hibernation.

After that, the area was rocked by a series of small earthquakes. Of course, this attracted the attention of seismologists. The researchers collected an array of data, and then extrapolated them into a fairly well-studied Hawaiian volcanoes. The result showed that sometime in may we can expect a slight ejection of lava and volcanic ash. That is colorful, but safe spectacle.

Not surprisingly, the impending eruption attracted the attention of the press, which always covered this event, including through personal stories. For example, while a real TV star was 83-year-old veteran of the First world war, Harry R. Truman, the namesake of U.S. presidents.

The fact that the grandfather lived on the shores of lake Spirit at the foot of St. Helens and refused to leave their own home, despite the government announced a complete evacuation from the nearest to the volcano area.

He was not scared of neither smoke nor periodic earthquakes. In February 1918, the then 22-year-old soldier Truman survived the sinking of the liner SS Tuscania, and now feared nothing. Moreover, he felt “his” land: Truman settled with his wife on the shore of the lake in 1926 and for half a century ran a guest house Mount St. Helens Lodge. After the death of his wife retired, he spent his days with 16 cats and a glass of whiskey.

Television frequent guests to the picturesque old man, and was willing to interview him, even though permanent profanity.

“I have no idea, I detonate this thing or not — once said Truman told reporters. — If the mountain decides to leave, I go. Here around the forest, between me and Saint Helens Spirit lake before volcano a mile. Mountain can’t hurt me. I lived here for a very long time, in a city apartment I would not last two weeks.”

On may 18 he died in the eruption of the volcano that was his neighbor for many years.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: a video frame YouTube/Smithsonian Channel

Day X: explosion, equivalent to 1600 times the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

The hype in the press was attracted to the volcano idlers (for them was equipped with an observation area about 30 kilometres from the proposed site of the eruption), scientists (it is closer, only 8 to 10 kilometers), as well as vendors of merchandise and snacks. In total near the volcano were about three hundred observers.

Unfortunately, they did not know that St Helens different from their Hawaiian counterparts: on its Northern slope was a large weakened area. Plus the crater of the volcano was like a sealed tube of lava.

May 18, 1980, at 8.32 in the morning a powerful seismic jolt brought down the outcropping of rocks on the Northern slope of the volcano. Located eight kilometers from the crater a volcanologist David Johnston shouted on the radio to colleagues in Vancouver: “the beginning!” It became his last word.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: a video frame YouTube/Smithsonian Channel

The entire weakened North side exploded with a force of approximately 24 megatons of thermal energy, equivalent to 1600 times the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A column of volcanic ash rose, according to different data, from 17 to 24 kilometers up and later the ash fell in 11 States and two canadian provinces. Snow and ice on the volcano melted, why was formed a series of volcanic mudslides that reached the Columbia river, located nearly 80 km to the southwest.

Although it is believed that the eruption of a volcano, the greatest danger is the lava flows are actually much deadlier pyroclastic flows is a mixture of hot gases, ash and small stones, which moves with great speed, and the temperature inside can reach 700 degrees. For example, this killed the inhabitants of Pompeii.

So, that day down the slope of the volcano at a speed of 200-250 km/h, rushed to the debris flows, which were supplemented with fragments of volcanic rock from the top and clouds of ash. Those who were within ten kilometers of a chance to survive did not exist. Tourists were more fortunate: the flood did not reach them a few kilometers, but caught flying stones and the volcanic ash cloud temperature of 100-150 degrees above zero.

In the end, hundreds of square miles were turned into a wasteland, thousands of animals were killed, and mount St. Helens crater on the North side.

According to official data, directly from the eruption affected more than 200 people. Killed 57, including brave, Harry Truman, as well as the already mentioned volcanologist David Johnston, who was only 30 years old.

It is worth saying that although Johnston was sure that the eruption is a threat to people, and even persuaded the authorities not to cancel the evacuation of areas near the volcano, he remained in the camp near St. Helens. In addition, killing photographers Reid Blackburn and Robert Landsberg. The latter gained popularity due to its deathbed photo.

In the weeks before the eruption Landsberg repeatedly came to the volcano, photographing what is happening with him changes. On the morning of 18 may 1980, he was a few miles from the top. After the explosion of the volcano, apparently realizing that the chances of rescue from the cloud of ash will no longer Robert remained in place and continued to photograph the volcano and the eruption until the very end. Then rewound the film into the cassette, removed the camera in the backpack and put it under him. As such, the body found under a layer of ashes seventeen days later.

Film in the camera was not injured and has been taken and the pictures it helped geologists to obtain a more accurate picture of the eruption.

Within a radius of seven kilometers from the source body wasn’t even looking for: the landscape there looked like the primordial Earth and smelled of sulfur. But the study of bodies in Pompeii gives an indication that, most likely, people do not even have time to realize that die, and died in less than a second from heat shock.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: a video frame YouTube/Smithsonian Channel

The effects of the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history

To understand how destructive was the eruption, here is an example: the city of Yakima, which was as much as 130 kilometers, covered with ashes, and visibility during the day fell to three meters. People wore masks so as not to choke. The ash polluted the water was in the electrical appliances, so the city started to have problems with electricity and water. Officially from the effects of the eruption killed four people: two of them crashed because of poor visibility, and two died of heart attacks.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: a video frame YouTube/Smithsonian Channel

Landslide temporarily shifted to the North lake water Spirit, on the banks of which once stood the house of Harry Truman. Later it was revived at 50 meters above the previous level, but it was not clean and clear — it was like a pit of steaming brown liquid.

Even after three decades in Spirit lake and nearby lake St. Helens visible floating logs, carried here by the stream.

1,5 тысячи Хиросим: хроника самого катастрофического извержения вулкана в США

Photo: YouTube video frame/KING 5

At least 17 separate pyroclastic flows descended during the eruption, and their aggregate volume was about 0.21 cubic kilometres.

Event may 18, 1980 was the deadliest and economically destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history. In addition to the death of 57 people directly from the blast, it is worth noting that was destroyed 200 homes, 47 bridges, 24 km of Railways, and 298 km of highway. When then US President Jimmy Carter a few days flew over the area, said: “compared to this, the surface of the moon looks like a Golf course”.

It is believed that economic losses amounted to not less than 1.1 billion USD (or $ 3.4 billion in 2018). But there were indirect and intangible costs. Unemployment in the vicinity of St. Helens rose tenfold in a few weeks after the eruption, and then returned to nearly normal levels after operations on the collection of wood and removal of ashes.

Only a small percentage of residents left the region because of job loss due to natural disaster. A few months after may 18, a few residents reported mental agony and emotional problems, although they coped with the crisis. They were given help by the authorities.

Despite these developments, the decline of tourism was temporary. Subsequently, the mountain due to his dark aura even attracted new visitors.

Of course, all ended on the same eruption. But subsequent emission of pyroclastic material from the rift left by the landslide consisted mainly of new magmatic debris, and not from fragments of preexisting volcanic rocks.

The volcano had erupted five times from may to October 1980. In the early 1990 was recorded at least 21 episode of the eruption. And volcanic activity on mount St. Helens in 2004-2008 have been documented as a continuous eruption with a gradual loss of magma. This activity continued until January 2008.

The landscape near the mountain has preserved, there is arranged the national Volcanic Monument and the surrounding ridge built the Observatory, which received the name of the deceased volcanologist Johnson.


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