Mt St Helens Closed to Climbing Due to Eruption Risk
Monday, September 27, 2004
(Updated September 30, 2004)
Climbing and hiking above the 4,800-foot mark on SW Washington's Mount St. Helens
is prohibited until further notice due to a swarm of earthquakes that suggest a volcanic eruption
may be imminent.
On September 29, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Cascade Volcano Observatory issued a Level Two Volcano Advisory
warning that the "current unrest could culminate in an
eruption." Click here
to view the latest statements.
The 8,365-foot mountain has not had a major eruption since 1986, but, according
to a USGS statement, "there is no evidence that...a large sustained
eruption" is likely to occur.
A catastrophic eruption devastated Mount St Helens on May 18, 1980, when the mountain
lost over 1,300 feet in elevation and developed a huge crater opening toward the
north. Many square miles of land were buried or stripped clean of vegetation
and trees during that eruption, and the evidence is still striking for present day
visitors to the National Volcanic Monument.
The May 18, 1980 eruption is still very
evident on the North side of Mt St Helens.
The 1,000-foot lava dome inside the crater,
as seen from the South Rim of the summit.
Photos © Matthew Weaver (PMR)
Though the current USGS statement does not predict an event similar to
the 1980 eruption, the potential of sudden ash eruptions, steam explosions, rock
projectiles, landslides and/or debris flows means that climbing or hiking
near the mountain is unwise until further notice. Effective immediately, the
USDA Forest Service has canceled all previously issued climbing permits and will
not issue more until the eruption risk subsides.
If a volcanic event occurs, it is possible that PMR could be activated to
help with search and rescue efforts, though it could be some time between
the event and the point where it is safe enough for rescuers to enter the scene.