On May 18, 1980, 35 years ago today, an earthquake struck below the north face of Mount St. Helens in Washington state, triggering the largest landslide in recorded history, and a major volcanic eruption that scattered ash across a dozen states. The sudden lateral blast—heard hundreds of miles away—removed 1,300 feet off the top of the volcano, sending shockwaves and pyroclastic flows across the surrounding landscape, flattening forests, melting snow and ice, and generating massive mudflows. A total of 57 people lost their lives in the disaster. [Editor’s Note: This anniversary always hits home for me, as I was a 12-year-old living in Spokane at the time. I have such vivid memories of watching the approaching ash cloud, the bizarre dark skies at daytime, the uncertain fears of inhaling the ash, deserted streets and closed schools.] [32 photos total]

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An ash plume billows from the crater atop Mount St. Helens hours after its eruption began on May 18th, 1980 in Washington state. The column of ash and gas reached 15 miles into the atmosphere, depositing ash across a dozen states. (USGS / Robert Krimmel) #
Mount St. Helens, as it looked the day before its massive eruption, on May 17, 1980. (USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, Harry Glicken, file/Via AP) #
On May 17, 1980, vulcanologist David Johnston sits at Coldwater II camp near Mt. St. Helens. At 8:32 a.m. the next morning, Johnston radioed a message to the USGS headquarters: "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!" Johnston did not survive the eruption. Coldwater II was later re-named "Johnston Ridge" in honor of Dave. (Harry Glicken / USGS) #
An animated series of images showing the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Clearly visible in the first few images is the largest recorded landslide in history—the entire north face of the volcano sliding away following a shallow earthquake. The newly-exposed core of the volcano then erupted. (AP) #
Mount St. Helens erupts again, on July 22, 1980. (Jack Smith / AP) #
Mount St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980. (AP) #
Mt. St. Helens, May 18, 1980. (NOAA News Photo) #
Ash clouds from Mount St. Helens move over Ephrata airport in Washington on Monday, May 19, 1980. Communities across central and eastern Washington were covered in 3-5 inches of gritty, fine, ash particles. (Mike Cash / AP) #
A house is submerged along the Toutle River which flooded in the aftermath of the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 19, 1980. Area streams and rivers rose quickly as ice and snow on the volcano melted instantly. (AP) #
A logging operation along the Toutle River, Washington, about 20 miles from Mount St. Helens, in ruins after flooding from ice and snow melt from the mountain, in May of 1980. (AP) #
Bob Brown, left, and his brother John attempt to lead three horses to safety out of the Weyerhaeuser 19 mile yard log in Kid Valley, Washington. The yard was flooded by the Toutle River following the eruption of Mount St. Helens. (Gary Stewart/ / AP) #
Bob Brown (right) and John Brown climb onto railroad car, heading down the train along with two additional would-be horse rescuers, giving up their efforts as they flee for their lives as flood waters from the Toutle River begin a sudden rise on May 19, 1980. All four people reached safety but the horses are presumed to have drowned. (Gary Stewart/ / AP) #
Steam rises from hot water in a river following the aftermath of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, on May 19, 1980. (AP) #
Aerial view of timber blowdown, destroyed by the May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens, in Skamania County, Washington, on June 8, 1980. (USGS) #
The crater left at the summit of Mt. St. Helens, after it lost more than 1,300 feet of elevation to the catastrophic landslide and eruption of May 18,1980, the surrounding landscape still steaming. (AP) #
Blowdown of trees from the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, viewed on August 22, 1980. (Lyn Topinka / USGS) #
Damaged equipment on south side of Elk Rock, northwest of Mount St. Helens, in Cowlitz County, Washington, on June 5, 1980. (USGS) #
The melted dashboard of pickup truck located on ridge top about 14 km north of Mount St. Helens, in Skamania County, Washington, on June 18, 1980. (USGS) #
A National Guard member identifies victims of the eruption of Mt St Helens. (Ralph Perry / NPS) #
An aerial view of destruction of logging operation after floods following Mount St. Helens' eruption, shown on May 20, 1980. (Jack Smith / AP) #
The streets of Yakima, Washington, are dark at 3:00 PM after an eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980. Volcanic ash covered the streets as people wore masks to avoid breathing the particles. (AP) #
A solidified mudflow covers State Highway 504 near the town of Toutle, northwest of Mount St. Helens, to a depth of 2 m (6 ft). Geologist for scale. (R.L. Schuster / USGS) #
A wrecked logging truck and crawler tractor are shown amidst ash and downed trees near Mount St. Helens two days after an explosive eruption. (AP) #
Fifteen-year-old Heidi Havens gives Allen Troup, 16, a kiss as he prepares to board a Spokane City bus, on May 27, 1980. Spokane residents had to wear face masks while outside for days after the eruption because of possible health threats from volcanic ash sprayed over the area by Mount St. Helens on May 18. (Ralph Viggers / AP) #
Mount St. Helens, shortly after the eruption pf May 18, 1980. (AP) #
The slopes of Smith Creek valley, east of Mount St. Helens, show trees blown down by the May 18, 1980 lateral blast. Two U.S. Geological Survey scientists (lower right) give scale. The direction of the blast—shown here from left to right—is apparent in the alignment of the downed trees. Over four billion board feet of usable timber, enough to build 150,000 homes, was damaged or destroyed. (Lyn Topinka / USGS) #
A car sits submerged in ash in this May 20, 1980 photo from the Mount St. Helen eruption in Washington State. (AP) #
Denuded trees lay like matchsticks in the changed landscape around Mount St. Helens, shown two days after eruption, on May 20, 1980. (Jack Smith / AP) #
A Washington state geologist and a reporter walk toward the crater of Mount St. Helens in May of 1981, almost a year after the volcano exploded, causing dramatic destruction for miles around. They were near the steaming lava dome with the snow-covered crater wall beyond. (Gary Stewart / AP) #
A memorial to those who lost their lives in the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, photographed on May 18, 2010, in Washington state. (Ted S. Warren / AP) #
A tourist stops to take photos of Mount St. Helens at sunset on October 4, 2004. (Andy Clark / Reuters) #
Satellites in orbit and scientists on the ground still monitor the mountain and track the recovery of Mt. St. Helens. This image shows a three-dimensional view of the mountain, looking toward the southeast, as it appeared on April 30, 2015. The image was assembled from data acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 and the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on Terra. (Jesse Allen and Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory) #

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