/15 Mountains

David Maisel

Mount Saint Helens

The volcano Mount Saint Helens erupted in Washington in 1980, unleashing cataclysmic forces more than 400 times the strength of the atomic blast that leveled Hiroshima. More than 540 million tons of volcanic ash rose 80,000 feet into the atmosphere, ultimately spreading over 22,000 square miles. The 200 mile-an-hour blast flattened trees twenty miles away, and sheared 1,300 feet off the peak of the mountain, forming a crater more than a mile wide. The north side of the volcano burst, releasing magma and gas that incinerated the surrounding region. One hundred and fifty square miles of old-growth forests were reduced to a wasteland of scorched timber, buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash.

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