Yes, my dad sends me an email every day. An email containing a picture of Mount St. Helens.
Yes, he is weird.
He has set his browser's home page to the VolcanoCam at Johnston Ridge Observatory (it's an HD image of the north side of Mount St. Helens, updated every five minutes). He can't resist sending the images to me, my brother, my uncle, my cousins... Because what if we went through the day without knowing what Mount St. Helens looked like?
He really misses it when the snowpack is covering the camera, or the weather is foggy, and he can't see the volcano. When it reappears, he sends us the image with a little celebratory message! ("Still there!!") Sometimes, if it's been a while since it has been visible, he will send us an old image from the archives.
Yes, he is nuts.
On Tuesday, he sent an email with the subject "Yes, it's Spring!" He wrote "Is anyone experiencing webcam withdrawal?" and attached THREE photos.
You can see why I had to share the zaniness with you, internets.
As I was writing this, I thought maybe I would share with you some information about this, the only active volcano in the lower 48 states. I did some internet research, just to double-check the facts I already had in my head. Dear Internets, I must admit that I found a lot of information out there, and I found it very interesting! Is it in the genes? Am I nuts too?
Mount St. Helens, located in southern Washington state, catastrophically erupted on May 18, 1980.
Here is the mountain on May 17, 1980:
And here is the mountain on May 18, 1980:
The volcano was actually rather active from 1800 to 1857, but after over a century of people living under its peaceful shadow, building towns and living lives, the average person thought of it as a dormant mountain.
In March of 1980, an earthquake triggered some activity within the mountain. She began to develop a "bulge." Oh St. Helens, I feel ya. I don't like people commenting on my bulges, either. (And sometimes mine are caused by gas, too.) In March, April, and May, she experienced a lot of seismic activity and eruptions of steam and ash. Magma was clearly moving under and inside the volcano.
On Sunday, May 18, 1980, at 8:32 am, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake under the north face of the mountain (the "bulge") triggered a massive landslide. She literally blew her top, as the entire north face of the mountain slid off into the lake and valley below. But she wasn't done yet. Here's what she did:
- Boom! when part of the mountain slid off, the magma underneath exploded and sent super-heated volcanic gases, ash, and rock toward the north.
- Spew! an ash cloud rose up from the volcano, erupting continuously for 10 straight hours. The ash would eventually cover 22,000 square miles (60,000 km²).
- Slide! the snow and glaciers on the mountain all melted, resulting in mudslides.
57 people died. 200 homes were destroyed. Tens of thousands of acres of forest were leveled. Over 7,000 big game animals (deer, elk, and bear), as well as all birds and most small mammals perished. 900,000 tons of ash had to be removed from highways and airports in the state of Washington.
Since that date, there have been several more eruptions, and the volcanic activity continues today.
In 1982, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created. One summer in the mid-eighties, my family went there to see it. It was still completely covered in ash. Dead trees were all lying on their sides, all having been pushed over in the same direction by the volcano blast. Spirit Lake was completely full of dead trees. It took your breath away with its desolation.
But some plant life was starting to return to the area. It is a fascinating study of forest rebirth. (I guess I am my daddy's daughter after all!)
If you want to read even more about Mount St. Helens...