Miraculous recovery at Mount Saint Helens

Mount Saint Helens erupted on the morning of May 18, 1980.  Four days later, President Jimmy Carter visited the disaster zone and made some lengthy comments to the press in Portland.  800px-MSH80_blowdown_smith_creek_09-24-80

I don’t know that there’s—in recorded history in our Nation, that there’s ever been a more formidable explosion. What happened apparently was a natural explosion equivalent maybe to 10 megatons of nuclear bombs or 10 million tons of TNT that swept across, first with a flash of light and heat—800 to 1,000 degrees out 12, 15 miles away—that instantly burned everything that was in direct visual sight of the explosion itself. This was later followed, in 2 or 3 minutes, by the pressure wave, that travels at the speed of sound. And then that was later followed by this enormous gush of liquid rock, mixed with air and to some degree with ice, that comprised a cubic mile of material…

Everybody knows that a volcano has enormous power to kill and destroy.  So much so that some experts expected that the blast zone would be ruined permanently.

But they were surprised when, within mere weeks instead of years, the hills and valleys exploded again – this time in a riot of wildflowers – prairie lupine and fireweed and asters and strawberries!


And not only tiny herbs, but big Red alders sprang back almost immediately also!  Red alder is an amazing plant for the purposes of repopulating a volcanic blast zone, because it is a nitrogen fixer.  It takes nitrogen out of the air and deposits it in the ground, making the soil richer for future plant growth.  Additionally, Red alder is deciduous, so every autumn it carpets the ground in leaves which decay into soil.


I think that miraculous recovery by small creeping beautiful things makes for a better story than utter destruction by way of 100 megaton volcanoes.



Categories: Nature

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  1. I loved the riot of color on that trek. It was all together beautiful- close up and in the distance!