Volcanoes are some of nature's most beautiful performances. But they can be as deadly as they are beautiful. Volcanic eruptions of massive proportions often make the news headlines. But once the lava stops flowing, and the smoke and ash clears, a path of destruction is left behind that sometimes goes unreported to the public. This paper will utilize the example of the Mount St. Helens eruption to discuss the devastating aftermath of volcanic eruption.
There are various consequences of volcanic activity. The most obvious of which is the transformation of the landscape surrounding a volcano. This transformation takes on several forms, based upon the type of volcano and subsequent eruption. The most notable volcanic eruption in North America was Mount St. Helens in 1980. Mount St. Helens, in Washington state, was once one of the most picturesque places in the Pacific Northwest. But after several months of earthquakes, and billows of smoke and ash, she finally erupted on Sunday, May 18, 1980 (US Geological Survey).
This active strato volcano blew out the entire northern face of the mountain. The resulting widespread damage varied from trees being stripped of their branches and uprooted up to six miles from .
the north face, to people being burned alive from the intense heat (USGS). There was also extensive loss of wildlife in the area, with elk, deer, bears, and moose, dying in large quantities. Spirit Lake, which rested near the foot of Mount St. Helens, began to boil when a scalding landslide of mud and rock slammed into it. All of the fish and other life forms in the lake died (USGS).
There were other consequences of this eruption that reached far beyond the four hundred square kilometer path of destruction. Lahars, which are rivers of hot volcanic debris saturated with water, race down into the valleys at the foot of the slope (Tarbuck and Lutgens 226-227). Also, large amounts of ash, rock debris, and gases were emitted almost eleven miles into the stratosphere.