Mt. Saint Helens reawakens - 2004

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photo by Steve Newman Sr. - Bothell, Wa
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photo by Steve Newman Sr. - Bothell, Wa

After a Slumber for a decade in late September 2004, swarms of earthquakes resumed at Mt. Saint Helens deep below the crater. They were regular and frequent (every few minutes), leading experts to predict that magma was on the move. They were not to be disappointed for long as on October 1, 2004 the first steam and ash venting arrived indicating that the hot stuff was near the surface. A couple chance photos by a visitor at the visitor's center adorn this page.

As I write this page at the end of October 2004, steam venting has become a regular event and magma has broken to the surface inside the crater and is building yet another dome just south of the existing one.

Subsequent to the explosion in 1980 there was a period of time during which magma pushed up inside the crater and made a dome nearly 1000 feet high fairly well to the north side of the crater. Now we are seeing a new extrusion slightly to the south but inside the crater. Wintery weather has arrived at the mountain and cloud cover making visual observations impossible are the norm. Impressions at the moment are that a relative lot of magma has arrived--at least as compared to the rate of arrival immediately subsequent to the 1980 explosion.

So far however, all the activity has for practical purposes been contained inside the crater and as a neighbor 50 miles to the south it has only been a curiosity. Visible appearances on rare clear days in October from the south have only revealed a cloud hanging over the mountain.

Folks who like to watch such things will have more to watch this winter than they have for a decade, but the immediate threats to persons or property seem remote at the moment. If the Magma ever builds up to the point that it runs out of the crater, or melts snow and ice that run out of the crater it will be a different story, but at the moment it seems likely that the 'action' will be confined to the crater for a long time.

For my report on the activity in 1980 see Mt. St. Helens Volcano.

- - Updated 12/18/2012
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- - Updated 03/23/2008