When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980 at 08:32:21, a cataclysmic chain of events occurred almost simultaneously. A 5.1-magnitude earthquake beneath the volcano shook the large bulge on the north face of the mountain loose, causing the entire north half of the mountain to slide downhill.
That landslide released the pressure underneath. The rock, ash, and glacial ice exploded sideways to the north at nearly the speed of sound. Nearby forested areas were sandblasted to bare rock, and trees 17 miles away were burned and killed. Ash also shot 15 miles up into the air and the volcano continued to erupt for nine more hours.
The intense heat melted 70 percent of the snow and glaciers on the mountain. As the water rushed down the steep slopes it mixed with the ash and landslide debris to form a mudflow that moved at speeds up to 80 miles per hour.
I witnessed the events as they unfolded that Sunday morning. I was 34 miles west of the mountain on a hilltop with an unobstructed view. A good friend and I had just stopped at the hilltop viewpoint while on an early morning dirt bike ride when the ground violently shook. My friend was facing the mountain when suddenly his face had the look of total shock... he was speechless!
I was only 16 years old, but I'll never forget the fear that was going through me when I turned to my speechless friend and said, "Holly #@*%, this is the big one!" I was in such a state of shock, I was never able to recall anything about the ride home. I just remember coming down my parents street and seeing my mom out in the front yard, praying that it was my motorcycle she was hearing coming down the road. She had feared that we'd ridden up towards the mountain, as we often did. She almost knocked me off the bike hugging me...
Fifty-seven people lost their lives that day and the beautiful mountain, along with its scenic surroundings, were forever changed.
Nowadays, I travel up to Mt St Helens approximately 30 times a year photographing her; never tiring of her majestic beauty.