Mount St. Helens—Lives Changed, Lessons Learned, Legacies of 1980

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How did the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens change peoples’ lives? Carolyn Driedger talks about events that led up to the 1980 eruption and influenced scientists’ response to it, as well as what happened on May 18, and how the eruption changed people's lives and professions. This talk was presented for the Sno-Isle Libraries’ 2021 Whidbey Reads program.


Date Taken:

Length: 01:02:30

Location Taken: Vancouver, WA, US

Video Credits

Video edited by Liz Westby


Hi, everyone. My name is Carolyn Driedger.

I'm a Hydrologist and Outreach Coordinator at the USGS,

Cascades Volcano Observatory, in Vancouver, Washington.

I'm happy to be here today,

recognizing that Snohomish County,

Island County are some of my favorite parts of the world.

So even if I can only be there virtually, that's just terrific.

Thank you to the Sno-Isle Library system for putting this together.

As well as Liz Westby from the USGS,

outreach geologist, who has been working hard to assemble the series of talks.

A few weeks ago, Heather Wright spoke to you about the Mount

St. Helens 1980 eruption and she pretty much outlined what happened,

and she talked about the geology then and what happened in succeeding eruptions.

It was just great and it was really

nice also to know she was being seen by the hometown crowd,

being from Whidbey Island herself.

But today, I want to talk to you about Mount St. Helens in a little bit different way.

We're going to talk about some of the events that led up to

the Mount St. Helens eruption and influenced our response to it,

as well as what happened and how that changed people's lives and people's professions.

Then we'll go on to talk about further about some of its legacies.

I'm going to tell you some stories about

just a small fraction of people who took part in this response.

That's really important to say because there were literally

probably hundreds to thousands of people who aided with the science

and with the search and rescue and

other emergency management functions and coordination functions, keeping people safe.

That was all really important,

and maybe I'm not even mentioning some of

the most important or most valuable contributors to understanding the eruption,

but we're going to start with a small fraction.

There might be some surprising backstories that you may not be aware of.

I think I have a strong appreciation for the connection between people and events maybe

in part because my father was a history teacher and he always impressed upon us,

as his students and his children,

that it was really important to understand the motivations and the particulars

of the personalities of the time as to how they predisposed what happened in history,

and so it's important for us to examine that here to

understand Mount St. Helens in perspective.

With due diligence, knowing that I'd be doing

some talks and writing a fact sheet with some other people,

I did some interviews in 2020 and 2021,

even in just this past week with some of the people who worked at Mount St. Helens.

It was a good time to catch up and to ask them what they had learned

and how Mount Helens was still influencing their profession and their career today.

You're going to hear some of those stories later on.

We're going to start with what happened with a little bit about people and volcanoes,

and some important things to remember about how people experienced volcanic eruptions.

People have lived with volcanoes for thousands of years.

Yet the response to eruptions remains really visceral and really complex.

For any culture, whether it be the native people here in the Pacific Northwest,

a volcanic eruption is a really big deal,

and it might just happen once in a generation or two.

That memory gets passed down in an oral or written form.

It's also just a full sensory overload.

If you've experienced a volcanic eruption,

you know that there's a sight, and the sound,

and the smell, and the feel of that gritty ash in your hands,

in your boots, in your face,

in your lips, and eyes.

In particular, there's something really symbolic about volcanic eruptions too,

about the magma rising from the bowels of the earth

and the eruption being powerful and uncontrollable.

I think pretty often,

it's thought in some cultures that somebody did something wrong.

What brought this eruption on us?

It's not a good thing.

But I think that the same visceral reaction that was experienced

by early humans is probably felt by 20th century humans today,

and there's a lot of approach and avoidance about volcanic eruptions.

We see the Cascades as these gleaming magnets that pull people to their slopes.

There's a great little book, a little bit of an offbeat book,

I'm not sure that I've ever actually seen it in a local bookstore,

but it's by Alan Weltzein.

He's a sociologist and he talks about how volcanoes are so important in forming

the identity of a community and how

each volcano has its tributary population that are somewhat loyal to it.

He talks about on a more personal level how we have ascribed some of that,

or we have appropriated some of

that majesty from these volcanoes for our own personal selves.

It gives us a sense of entitlement and maybe in the Northwest

a little bit of a sense of exceptionalism as well.

But if we're going to talk about Mount St. Helens,

we need to go back because starting back in the 1950s,

we could go back earlier, I suppose,

but we'll start with USGS scientist Rocky Crandell,

who is responsible for our understanding of the enormous magnitude of volcanic mudflows.

I'll probably here on,

talk about them, that's lahars,

these big, chunky, murky, muddy, boulder-rich,

gooey cement-like flows that advanced rapidly down a valley 30,

40, 50 miles per hour and inundate everything in their path,

which these are quite common we know.

But anyway, Rocky was working on deposits.

He had been assigned by USGS management to

map the extent of glacial deposits in the southern Puget Sound area,

as was his colleague Donal Mullineaux, somewhat adjacent,

and they worked with their university colleagues in

mapping these glacial deposits downstream of Mount Rainier.

Here is a couple of photos of him.

It's my right and lower left.

Not everything was working out as was expected,

and it seemed that instead of being on the valley sides,

these deposits were all on the valley floor

and it almost looked like they had flowed into place.

Crandell was discussing this with other colleagues, including Donal Mullineaux,

and a lightbulb went on in Crandell's head, and he said,

he even wrote in his July 25th, 1953 field notebook,

he had this radical idea that maybe this deposit was not glacial in origin,

it flowed into place.

That idea overturned the conventional wisdom,

that this was actually a giant mudflow or a lahar that had flowed into place,

and we know it today as the Osceola Mudflow,

which flowed through time eventually down into the Kent-Auburn Valley.

They published this idea,

Crandell and Waldon published the idea in 1956.

They were pretty proactive and very prolific with their publications.

There's a 1967 hazard assessment and there was a '71 professional paper in it.

1973 map, they really got into this.

Before long, between this and some other maps,

they were doing lots of hazard assessments.

They were becoming known for their hazard assessments.

Now, this was really the first geology-based hazard assessment in modern times.

Crandell moved beyond data and hazards.

This is really important because some of you might be

familiar with how staid a government publication can be,

such as a USGS professional paper,

and they were very set and very conservative and rigid guidelines on what you can say,

and how you say it, and how you present it.

But he really moved beyond the data and even talking

about hazards and he talked about some recommendations for mitigation.

Then he went up to the National Park Service managers and said,

"You have a problem here.

You have a campground that's right in harm's way and you have

the whole Longmire administrative facility that's really at risk from being inundated."

He was really asking a new normal of us when he wrote these recommendations,

to install a lahar detection system in critical valleys,

and develop a warning and notification system to

establish evacuation plans and make a plan to lower the lake levels behind dams,

make a plan to restrict travel in hazardous areas.

That was pretty radical and I think that

not too many people saw that and took it too seriously at the time.

Similar work was done at Mount St. Helens and meanwhile

colleague Don Mullineaux was looking at volcanic ash layers there.

The two of them were comparing notes.

They were recognizing that

some of the layers at Mount Rainier we're not settling right,

and comparing notes, they realized that some of the ash layers at Mount Rainier were from

Mount St. Helens and they began to spend a little more time working at Mount St. Helens.

They were actually working simultaneously on these.

They did a lot of work and came up with an amazingly prescient statement.

They wrote a hazards assessment,

and in February of 1975,

they made this bold statement.

Even if there hadn't been an eruption,

this might have been the volcanic event of the century that this bold statement was made.

That Mount St. Helens,

although long dormant since 1857, little known,

but prominent on the horizon in southwest Washington,

will erupt again before the end of the century.

That was just an amazing statement for them to make in 1975,

that was February of 1975.

They really didn't have any other volcanic activity

in the Cascades to make them think about it.

But it's amazing the difference that a month can make.

In March of 1975,

around three weeks later,

geothermal output at Sherman crater at Mount Baker rose an order of

magnitude and this increase in steam was obvious.

A cauldron in Sherman Crater was enlarged.

There was lots of gas release but to the chagrin of Steve Malone,

there was no seismicity; he's a seismologist.

But it was a fascinating place,

and I like to think of

that 1975 Mount Baker event as

a little bit of a dress rehearsal for what happened in 1980.

Little did they know, right?

That there was going to be a performance,

a chance to prove themselves.

This was the first USGS response to heightened volcanic activity in the

contiguous US since Mount Lassen in 1917.

Also a real opportunity for scientists to come in, test their equipment,

set it up, to think about what might happen and look at the possibilities.

For myself, I wasn't working for USGS at the time,

but our supervisor, Mark Meier in the USGS glaciology office in Tacoma was among that group.

It just seemed like it was the glaciologists and the seismologist and the geologists all

working together and contributing ideas and it was a great opportunity for them to bond.

They also got a taste of what it was like to tell officials that an area,

a very popular recreation area, needed to be closed.

I think of that as a get ready.

But then we move down to the Caribbean as another influence on the 1980 response.

That was the events of Guadeloupe in 1976.

It seems that this was a great opportunity for scientists around the world.

Unfortunately, to be exposed to witness

and pretty ineffective coordination in communication.

It's not just my opinion,

I wasn't even paying attention at the time,

I was celebrating the bicentennial of the United States as

probably you were as well if you're my age.

But anyway, this volcano was being studied by multiple groups of scientists.

There was minimal pre-eruption monitoring,

just a really slow build-up of activity.

There was some violence,

people were unhappy with being kept out of the area.

There were 20-25 scientists who were working in

multiple teams and they were giving different scientific interpretations,

really poor communication between these working scientists.

They gave conflicting reports to the public officials.

There was unlimited access to journalists.

For the journalist they'd hear one thing and then another,

and there was a controversial evacuation of about 77,000 people.

Maybe by some people considered to be erroneous,

because there was a misinterpretation of whether there was glass in the lava,

but with further investigation and years later,

maybe that was a warranted activity.

With Guadeloupe, that event actually ended up in a huge investigation

with scientists pointing fingers at

each other and an outside group coming into see what had gone wrong.

They said, "You really need more coordination and

better communication among yourselves and with officials in the news media."

We move forward in 1979,

as the lead up to Mount St. Helens.

There was a more apparent threat here,

there had been an eruption in 1971.

There was better coordination.

It was actually a successful evacuation of several thousand people.

Here we went to the other extreme,

I guess one could think of it as the mama bear, the papa bear.

We're still looking for just the right size chair for that medium size bear.

Here they really overly controlled,

at least in some opinions,

but overly control the news media communication.

This 1971 eruption had

really prepped the population as to what a volcanic eruption could be like.

There were some pre-eruption monitoring.

There's this rapid build-up of activity and scientists' work.

But the scientists all worked as one group,

and so they gained consensus among

all the different specialists as to what

might happen and they gave one interpretation to the officials.

It was very straightforward.

There was good communication between the scientists and the authorities.

There was a single stream of information and there was

no access to the hazard zone and no access to the scientists.

The news media didn't like this very much,

in fact, one person threatened to sue,

one reporter threatened to sue,

and the governor summarily deported him.

Maybe that's not quite what we need either at our next eruption.

But get set.

Let's move forward, in 1980,

Mount Helens was a favorite place for recreation,

the public and officials didn't really recognized the hazard.

Perhaps they enjoyed it where because of that.

The calls of Crandell and Mullineaux had not really been heeded.

There was a lack of manpower, as it was called in the day.

Not a whole lot of motivation,

not enough to change programs, and divert money.

As so often it takes a crisis to do that.

Here's the status of volcano response,

the Cascade Range as we enter the 1980 eruption.

There was no place-based volcano observatories in the Cascades at all,

minimal communication with public officials.

Some had been done, but not enough.

Minimal volcano monitoring.

We had just isolated instruments out rather than networks.

No valid emergency plan or communication plans or USGS

science response plans, community education experience.

We're pretty much scientists,

siloed into our own scientific disciplines where

the geologists worked in their own way,

seismologists in another, etc.

Put yourself back in 1980,

what were the news stories of the day?

It seems that there was a big rescue mission for the Iran hostages that had gone awry.

It was actually a terrible tragedy.

We had the Mariel boatlift,

an influx of Cuban refugees that was out of control.

All that season people were concerned with who had shot JR

on the big Dallas TV program.

With that background and when it's often dark days,

rainy days as we're experiencing for some of this March 2021,

the news that Mount St. Helens was doing something interesting

was a welcome diversion and an exciting new drama.

So Go.

The first indication that there was something going on at Mount

St. Helens was noticed by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Steve Malone talks about how one of his workers saw something unusual and they just said,

"Okay, it's one more earthquake to locate, it's probably nothing."

Then finally they located it and realized it was under Mount St. Helens.

Then a flurry of earthquakes continued and they began to

realize that this might be something more than they had thought.

Within a period of 24,

36, 48, 72 hours,

they went from no activity to major activity to

putting instruments on Mount St. Helens and contacting all these different groups.

I remember being in the Tacoma office,

where we actually had a view of Mount St. Helens on the eighth floor

of what was in the Pacific Bank building I believe.

Steve Malone called our boss Mark Meier and said, "Guess what?

We have these earthquakes."

We all discussed it in the hallway and decided that probably nothing would happen.

But anyway, Steve did contact people at

the USGS and he talked to Don Mullineaux and eventually to Rocky Crandell.

The earthquakes continued but the scientists were in Denver.

They didn't have a full sense of what was happening there.

It wasn't like there was email or Internet where

they could trade a lot of data at the time.

They were sedimentologists, they were people who looked at layers of rocky debris.

I mean, they didn't use rock hammers, they use shovels for their work.

They were unfamiliar with seismology and what this might mean.

Steve told me that he talked to

Don Mullineaux who was a very good hand holder, he is a geologist.

He said, "Okay, I'm going to help you with this.

I'm going to come out and work with you on this."

I'm told that there was another plea too when it was said by the people in

USGS in Denver that the seismologists were going bananas.

Clearly something big was happening.

Well, Don Mullineaux came out,

eventually Rocky Crandell as well

and there was just an onslaught of news media that met them.

It was absolutely overwhelming.

Fortunately, the Forest Service used an incident command structure for

forest fire response and that framework worked really well at least on a

local or some regional level for a volcanic eruption also.

That included having a joint information center

where they could all talk within their own lane of information,

so that was greatly helpful.

Before all this was done,

the Mount St. Helens response would be

the biggest news story that the US Geological Survey ever covered.

Let's go to look a few personalities as we're moving towards

the big catastrophic event on May 18th.

USGS scientist David Johnston had had

some harrowing experiences at Augustine volcano in Alaska in the year previous.

When he came to the region,

he was actually in the Pacific Northwest for

a scientific meeting and he came with his conference clothes,

wasn't really prepared to go out in the field.

But when all this activity began at Mount St. Helens,

he went to Steve Malone and said,

"Steve, what can I do?"

Steve told him that he could watch the seismometers.

Finally, after a few days he said,

"All these news people are just over the top and taking my science time.

Could you please go down to Mount St. Helens and talk to people there.

Talk to the news media there."

Dave was happy to do that and feeling very

powerfully motivated because of what he had experienced in Alaska.

A young news reporter,

Jeff Renner from KING5 TV in Seattle,

was one of the people who frequently talked to David.

Going back to Mount Baker, David Johnston and Jeff Renner

actually came from similar parts of the country just not too far apart,

Jeff from Wisconsin and David from Northern Illinois,

they understood each other.

At Mount Baker, Jeff had expressed

a lot of interests in volcanoes for his volcano stories

and Dave gave him advice on what to read and

told him all about the different kinds of hazards that could be experienced.

They build up a real rapport and I think that's a lesson learned that how

valuable it is to train the news media who are going to have to

stand in and speak for you on future occasions.

David was a gas geochemist,

you can see him using a COSPEC to measure gases.

Lots of things happened, Heather went over a lot of the physical things that happened,

but you know that the magma was intruding into the volcano,

a bulge of the north side was moving outward

and destabilizing the slopes and people were trying to

understand what might happen knowing that

there had been some collapses at Mount St. Helens before,

but this, nobody was really sure of it,

nobody had an idea of the energetics of this.

I want to remind people when it is asked,

why couldn't people predict what would happen?

Imagine the state of the science back at that time where there had been

practically nobody who had experienced

an explosive eruption within the US Geological Survey.

Only the very fluid basaltic eruptions in Hawaii,

so there was just not a lot of experience for this.

People worked really hard,

there were lots of putting heads together to understand what might occur.

But there we are on May 18th, 1980 at 8:32 in the morning,

the north side of the mountain collapsed.

We had a blast move over it and beyond it and faster than that landslide.

We had a large plume go into the sky.

As you see here in this photograph by Bob Krimmel,

the glaciologist who was used to taking pictures of glaciers,

but did well here with taking pictures of volcanic eruptions as well.

It was an amazing personal and cultural seismic shift.

This was the fulcrum in a lot of people's life stories.

What was it like before?

Where was I when this happened?

How did I think before about these Cascade volcanoes?

Do I still see them as benign and recreational opportunity locations,

or do I see them as something different?

It's been reported that a lot of people felt depression,

a sense of real uneasiness,

and being that we were still within a Cold War,

there was a threat of a bomb being dropped.

Some people told me that they thought maybe when they heard the boom,

boom, boom, that maybe the bomb had been dropped.

There's a lot of uneasiness and people feeling absolutely astonished and overwhelmed.

I think it's summarized well in this newspaper,

special edition piece from May 25th.

"Until two months ago,

in the memory of every living person at Mount St. Helens,

shimmering across Spirit Lake stood as a ready symbol of

benign and beautiful nature in the Pacific Northwest.

Now the bomb mountain,

never will symbolize that again to

those who have seen the destruction that has been wrought,

or to the thousands whose lives have been

wrenched that bright and peaceful deceptive Sunday morning of May 18th, 1980."

Now, among many people,

emergency managers and scientists and the public,

the mood - amazement, shock,

sadness, that there was much work to be done.

We knew that there were more eruptions to come.

At that time the Forest Service was running flights 24 hours a day over the volcano.

I will tell you later about my experience and what motivated

me to work with volcanoes further in USGS.

But anyway, I'll just say I had a chance to fly in one of those night flights.

It was a very eerie experience,

you couldn't recognize any part of the terrain even though I

was somewhat familiar with the northern side of the mountain.

But we knew we had to get back to work and that wasn't easy.

I can tell you it was not an easy place to work either because dust - volcanic ash was

everywhere and volcanic ash of course is

just these tiny little fragments of broken volcanic rock.

It's very abrasive and it gets

into all your facial parts

and your boots and it destroys your camera and your eyeglasses.

It was also just very disorienting to work there where this had changed.

You were still so much in awe let alone having to

do the scientific work but we had to move on and we

had just lost a colleague David Johnston,

when the blast overtook him at a place called Coldwater II.

Mount St. Helens became somewhat of

a master teacher and an ideal lab for volcano studies.

Really, I put this in the past tense but monitoring the volcano and analysis of

deposits has led to so many new insights that were

applicable in the Cascades and at volcanoes around the world.

The USGS founded the Cascades Volcano Observatory in 1982.

We're still in Vancouver at a different location than originally.

We have 80 some employees there now working on the Cascade Range.

Necessity has bred much cross-pollination among these scientific disciplines.

We had people like the stream gager on the left and seismologist

trying to understand their respective cultures and terminology.

We had people like Rick Hoblitt here in the lower left-hand corner,

and a picture by Bill Rose actually,

Michigan Tech, they're all looking at a pyroclastic flow there.

Then people who were doing surveying,

so they all had come to an understanding that all of them had something to give to the

other to put the entire three-dimensional puzzle

together of the story of Mount St. Helens,

and to understand what was going to happen next.

Local residents and the world gained a big profound appreciation for

the destructive power of volcanoes as seen in this destroyed bridge over the Toutle River.

Volcanic ash is recognized as a long-term hazard on the ground and to aviation.

The first ever health studies of it began in

eastern Washington and later expanded worldwide.

Dredging the sediment from downstream rivers continues intermittently even today.

Of course the big question is; what do we do with all that volcanic ash?

Those of us in southwest Washington are used to looking at big piles of ash along

I-5 as well as recognizing that the foundation of the Three Rivers Mall in Longview,

and other areas are built up from that ash.

The same thing happened in eastern Washington where volcanic ash was

cleaned up and it was buried basically,

put into excess wetlands and covered with soil and made into parks and ballfields.

I should mention that on the right there you see the picture of the dredging,

they're actually dredging lahar sediment.

Remember that the big lahars came downstream on that day,

as well as there being a directed blast and a devastated area.

The lahars leave a lot of sediment behind,

it fills the channels and encourages flooding,

it pushes the water out over the landscape,

and it fills in shipping channels,

so it's very important to keep an area dredged.

Studies at Mount St. Helens and all the Cascade volcanoes led to a lot of new insights.

People basically fanned out to all the Cascade volcanoes,

and that work is still going on today actually.

They mapped the rocky deposits and tried to understand like reading a book,

looking at all the different layers,

the different chapters of this volcano's history.

How explosive is it?

How often does it erupt?

When did it most recently erupt?

Where might be the hazardous areas in the future?

Then we produced a generation of hazard assessments.

A lot of new ideas and new technologies sparked

the real revolution in volcano monitoring instrumentation,

and that has really aided our ability to provide volcano warnings.

One of the legacies of the 1980 eruptions is that,

maybe even a few people who are even listening today

were scientists or field assistants out there doing deformation studies,

measuring the width of cracks to see how much the crater floor was deforming,

and other people who were looking at the earthquakes.

Using seismic information, earthquake information,

and deformation information, we were actually able to

predict some of the smaller explosions that happened after the big event.

Steve Malone tells a pretty compelling story about the first time we had a big eruption,

I guess it might have been the May 25th eruption,

where they saw these little extra wiggles on

the recorders, just before the explosion happened.

Then later on, I think it was June 12th,

he's like, "There are those wiggles again.

I wonder if they really mean something," another explosion.

Then on July 22nd,

he talks about how everybody was out on the field working at the volcano,

but this time he called the new proto-CVO and said,

"It's going to happen,

we're going to have an event."

It's really best told by him.

But anyway, that's the evolution of how we learn and apply information that we learn.

Now understanding volcano behaviors led to new types of analysis,

and we are able to take this information.

When we see that there's a threatening volcano that's perhaps going to awaken,

for example on the left with Larry Mastin's Ash 3D model, he's able to input,

NOAA weather data and show if a volcanic eruption

happened at that time where the ash would fall and approximately how much.

Then as Heather Wright showed during the last geology talk,

we make event trees where we say,

"If this happens then we have this much chance of

this next behavior happening as well," and in

that way we're able to have

a more quantitative assessment of what might happen in the future.

Of course there were people out there studying the ecology as well,

this barren landscape has quickly transformed with

this wonderful mosaic of new and thriving plants.

Mount St. Helens has spread its new generation of volcanologists.

They were about, I think it was

around 500 non-USGS scientists who came and worked at Mount St. Helens,

From, I think 70 different locations in the US and around the world,

I guess especially after the 1980 events.

Now that the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program,

which was formed back in the 1990s,

it's been to around 70 different crises worldwide and really strengthened

the volcanic response in a dozen of different nations, I think I'd say.

They don't go in and take over,

but they help the people and they're able to get some equipment for them.

It is run in cooperation with USAID,

the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and it's

a wonderful multi-agency program that has saved a lot of lives.

Actually with our people going to volcanoes around the world,

they are able to bring those new skills and

the experience home to the US and make us a stronger program as well.

Now there are many different trainings that happen,

it's not uncommon at

USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory to see people coming from other nations,

building equipment, learning how it works.

There is a program to educate people,

young volcanologist CSAV program through University of Hawaii,

USGS VDAP, so it's been a terrific experience.

In addition to that, between 2013 and the present,

the USGS VDAP has sponsored a series of

binational exchanges and I think there have been roughly maybe 13,

14 of them by now.

We had this gap between past and future,

I guess with the COVID happening.

But this has been an extremely useful program where as scientists we get to travel,

but the public officials who do the policy-making and make decisions,

being motivated and inspired to prepare their populations around

Glacier Peak and Mount Rainier and Baker and St. Helens and on,

they don't have a chance to go find out what a volcanic eruption is really about

because in the Cascades they are low-frequency but they are high consequence.

We have taken them to Colombia,

to Ecuador on one occasion, most of them to Colombia,

and we have public officials like I see Lorraine Churchill there in the center picture,

meeting with a group of students during a student outreach event in Colombia.

Then I see people from

Washington Emergency Management Division and different county governments as well.

Brian from Washington State Emergency Management Division and Corina from

the State Geological Survey and Scott Beason from Mount Rainier National Park.

It's just been tremendous to see how they have become motivated,

they become educated about volcanoes and

what eruptions could mean for the Cascade Range.

I want to mention also that in 2018 we

brought Ecuadorians and Colombians

to the Skagit River area,

Darrington, Snohomish County in general.

Jason Biermann, Emergency Manager for Snohomish County

gave them a wonderful explanation of what the response was like at the Oso landslide.

The Colombians, Ecuadorians who had experienced lahars had said,

"That it is so similar to what we've experienced also,

and we need to learn together about how we can most

effectively deal with landslides that turn into

these big lahar-like gooey masses

and entrap a lot of people, so it's been a very profitable program.

But not only that, now as opposed to before

when we had very limited contact with emergency managers,

we now have these interagency volcano hazard working groups

that were developed back in the 1980s,

as soon as people could get away from Mount St. Helens

and start looking at their own home areas,

starting with Mount Rainier emergency manager, Bill Lokey.

He showed us the value of all working together and creating a coordination plan.

As early as 1988,

he had created a plan with other public officials and some scientists from USGS.

He actually had a little exercise practicing an eruption of Mount Rainier.

Everyone at the end got a certificate,

I survived the 1980 eruption of Mount Rainier.

What you're seeing in the picture here,

I guess down at the bottom and I see Patrick Pringle there,

some of you may know Cynthia Gardner and emergency managers from Whatcom,

Skagit and Snohomish counties.

Everyone's working together to get products put in

place so that they can help educate their communities.

In the top photo,

we have Kirstin Hofmann in the city of Puyallup and a number of people

working together during a school lahar drill in Puyallup,

I guess that was 2019.

At that time they were about 8,000 school students who

practiced evacuation in case a lahar descends the Puyallup valley.

Of course, we have the Orting School District that has been

practicing lahar evacuation for many years.

We have John Ewert here and we have Seth Moran,

they were both our previous scientists

in charge and I just want to say it's been terrific

for us to have a lot of support from management

to go beyond the science and make sure that our science is applied.

Scientists, officials, members of the public,

we've all been working together.

It all began in the 1980s with Mount St. Helens increasing

the research about eruption histories and the assembly of hazard assessments,

and then going out and showing populations that they had a problem in their backyard,

we should talk about this.

Beginning of volcano hazard work groups.

There's just an ongoing co-development of volcano coordination plans now,

each one eventually being tested and revised.

It's just a never-ending process.

There's an ongoing development of volcano hazards education products,

and updating, exercising of plans,

on and on it goes.

There's also a USGS alert notification system that is described on our website.

You'll get the URL at the end.

But this is something that we were lacking in 1980,

but it does explain the different levels so that you have something objective

to look at when we talk about what might happen at a volcano.

Now, all that work just helped us tremendously in 2004-2008 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

In fact, we had

the Mount Baker Glacier Peak work group getting ready for a big exercise of

the plan that we wanted to test in late September 2004.

We were all set to go, but instead,

Mount St. Helens reawakened with

these smaller eruptions and there you see the explosive beginning of it.

It turned into a dome building.

Relatively mild, gentle, and low-energy eruption.

But that event, it was just amazing

because all the people from Baker and with the Glacier Peak area,

came and they helped us,

as well as with people from Mount Rainier,

they all came and helped us with that response and it made it much easier.

We got to respond to a real volcanic eruption rather than just playing one.

I should say in addition,

a lot of people in many agencies are involved,

the policymakers, there are teacher workshops,

and we work a lot with the news media,

public at risk, park staff.

We try to get everyone up to speed about what these volcano issues are.

The fact that these are what we call active volcanoes,

they're not erupting, but they are active because they have

all the processes going on inside and underneath that lead to an eruption.

There's a lot of snow and ice on them that when melted can cause lahars.

There's potential for ash to the east.

This is actually all around the volcano,

but maybe most often to the east.

This is like a never-ending job for us to work with everybody,

especially with lots of changes in personnel.

I want to mention also that with the teacher workshop at Mount Rainier for many years,

for some reason, we had a lot of Whidbey Island teachers.

I think we probably had

a dozen Whidbey Island science teachers come to learn about hazards at Mount Rainier.

We expanded that information to the Cascades also.

Some of those responders of 1980 continue to train and support the younger generation.

You can see Patrick Pringle, who eventually left USGS,

and went on to work with the State Geological Survey,

and then to become an award-winning teacher down at Centralia Community College,

and Dan Miller who was a colleague with Rocky

Crandell who later took over VDAP and responded to many foreign eruptions.

Then Rocky Crandell on the right and probably one of Rocky's

last visits to the field looking at the lahar deposits in the Puyallup River valley.

I told you that I interviewed some people and asked them some questions,

and we've got a few quotes from them, for example,

a retired UW seismologist Steve Malone said,

"Mount St. Helens forced the acceleration of new equipment use and analysis".

He has a very in-depth and compelling story to tell

about putting a new system online on March 1st that would telemeter data,

but they didn't have the software to do the analysis of it.

They had to still go back to the volcano and you rely on

putting in recorders that they had to go back and visit to retrieve the data.

They weren't seeing it in real-time, in other words.

He mentioned that Mount St. Helens was just a career-defining moment.

He'd always been interested in volcanoes,

but this evermore so.

He notes how we've improved the monitoring systems as

a result of Mount St. Helens and how this has really

accelerated our ability to do volcano seismology at volcanoes all around the world.

Many groups, students, staff at

the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, USGS, university scientists,

people in other nations all have worked together to improve

our ability to collect the data,

to analyze it, and understand its meaning.

He noted that there's real value in doing exotic seismology.

That is, earthquakes that are caused by things other

than the normal tectonic shaking of the Earth,

caused by landslides, and glacier movement, and deep tremor.

Deep tremor he noted is,

"That's what we're seeing with these, slow-moving earthquakes.

Slow-moving quakes that we see from time to

time under the Cascadia within this Cascadia Subduction Zone."

This information, it's not collected just because it's interesting or fun,

it's because it's really useful and leads to insights down the road.

Retired Emergency Manager Bill Lokey told me that, "In emergency management,

we can draw a direct line from the lessons that we learned at Mount St. Helens to

our current volcanic hazard planning efforts at the other Cascade volcanoes."

He noted that, "We learned the importance of monitoring volcanoes,

and for scientists and everybody working together BEFORE an eruption."

If you know Bill Lokey and you know how

passionate he gets about talking emergency management.

He kept telling me," Emergency management, it's a team sport.

It's a team sport, Carolyn, got to do it all together."

Mount St. Helens' response was so complex.

It's been very meaningful and helpful to

the profession of emergency management more broadly

because it was very complex, it was long-lasting.

It touched so many different professions and agencies.

There was the Corps of Engineers involved in mitigation efforts, and scientists,

and all different kinds of scientists actually,

the Forest Service as the land managers,

and Search and Rescue,

and all different aspects of emergency management.

A lot of what happened at Mount St. Helens has been documented in

the literature of how starting from scratch,

moving forward, and creating

a complex and working emergency management inter-agency system.

It's given us one of the examples of how an organic start can be,

what it evolves to and therefore,

maybe it's a good example of what's needed in the future.

I like this quote by Les Nelson,

the Cowlitz County Sheriff that,

"The jurisdictional boundaries were no longer

of mutual interest because we had mutual hazards."

Retired KING-TV meteorologist, Jeff Renner,

told me that Mount St.. Helens' reawakening and

the ultimate eruption and the public's fascination in that ongoing story led

the Northwest journalism to evolve in a way that really

encouraged strong science and environmental reporting for decades to come.

You might remember that there were

FCC regulations of the time that said that you will talk about local events,

and that certainly encouraged Jeff to talk about Mount St. Helens and others to talk

about Northwest events and features of interests.

He noted that, as journalists,

they felt a really strong sense of responsibility to tell the story

of the volcano accurately and in context,

really understand the processes,

and know what they were talking about,

and to be worthy of the confidence of the scientist and our colleagues.

He said that working with scientists at Mount Baker's steam events in the 1970s

trained him and others how to work effectively with scientists.

That gave a head start to their working with scientists in 1980.

David Johnston recognized the importance of not just doing science,

but of communicating to the public.

So all those interviews done with Jeff and others were of value.

Retired NOAA warning coordination meteorologists for the National Weather Service,

Seattle, Ted Buehner, says,

in 1980, we didn't even have a volcano code for aviators,

so we just warned them about "dust" in the air.

That's been changed. We now have a volcano code.

The threat to flyways has been established.

He notes that volcano alerts have been changed,

the whole system has been changed so that it's a lot more effective and reaches

people directly rather than having to go in some daisy chain manner of people,

one person informing another.

He notes also that there's a new weather station

that was put in some time after the eruption,

recognizing that they really didn't have enough weather stations in

southwest Washington to predict where the ash would travel.

That was a real coup to be able to get that put in.

In 1982, Congress preserved

a really unique landscape for the public use and future study.

Susan Saul, from here in Vancouver,

was part of Mount St. Helens Volcano Protective Association.

The protection for the monument,

through the creation of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument,

it was really a decades-old cause.

It began in the 1930s,

it was accelerated in the 1970s, and by 1980,

she was leading hikes to Mount St. Helens area in

March of 1980 so that people could get to know the area,

love it, and then advocate for its protection.

But it's great to have the national monument.

We can build museums and do interpretation.

There are fewer residents at risk having basically a park here.

Now, there are many opportunities for visits and learning through the Mount St.

Helens National Volcanic Monument and through the Mount St. Helens Institute,

both of which I suggest you look at carefully to see the opportunities.

At that time also,

it has to be remembered that there were new ways of doing interpretation,

and so many young people came to Mount St. Helens

and there were very innovative exhibits that were put in there.

Now I want to tell you, briefly,

in a few slides, about what has motivated me.

I had been working in a USGS glaciology office and I made a switch,

came to CVO at one point.

But what motivated that,

and probably was the events of May 17th and 18th of 1980,

and where I was aiding colleague, Mindy Brugman,

who is now a meteorologist in Canada.

There she is. She was doing a project on Mount St. Helens looking

at the movement of the Shoestring Glacier.

She asked for my help, I went down with her on the 17th,

never guessing what it would lead to.

I thought I was in for a day of fieldwork and surveying.

But first, we went to Coldwater II.

We went to Timberline and we went to Coldwater II.

Here's Mindy looking at a camera that was set up there.

This is the afternoon of May 17th.

Of course, I had to look at the camera as well, time-lapse camera.

Harry Glicken was there,

he was directing the volcano from the director's chair.

I think the mood was fairly light there.

Mindy here examining the Laser Ranger.

This is the device that she had brought down from

the glaciology office where we needed it to make very precise measurements of glaciers,

but it was thought that it would be helpful here as well, and it was.

She showed how it should be used.

David Johnston was catching up on some field notes at Coldwater II.

David kept saying, "You know it's not really safe to be here.

I know you want to stay here and get a helicopter

over to the Shoestring Glacier the next day,

but I think that you should go home and come

back the next day," which was not what we wanted to hear.

But we heeded his advice and we left.

Here's one of the last shots of Mount St. Helens intact,

about nine o'clock the night before on May 17th, 1980.

That's our 504, as it used to be.

The next morning Mindy and I attended a Sunday morning meeting,

and at the little proto-observatory and then drove up I-5.

Dan Miller was a mile or so ahead of us in his own vehicle headed for Mount St. Helens,

and Mindy and I were behind him,

and we watched in fascination.

I can't say it was really horror at that point because it took a long time for

the notion to set in that we might be losing some people with what was occurring.

But we saw a large cloud form on the north side of the volcano,

and it kept on expanding northward and going over the hills to the north.

Then we watched the large plume form at the top of the volcano.

We were stunned with what was happening,

but we quickly headed back to the volcano observatory and

began working with the news media where it was just lots of chaos.

Yes, it is at the beginning of about any serious crisis,

people not really knowing exactly what's going on.

Dan Miller was getting reports from the field and he was writing them down,

and Mindy and I were writing them down

and passing them on to other members of the news media who called.

A telephone was the only mechanism for making contact at the time.

It was all very sobering.

We derived a lot of energy from knowing that we just needed to push forward and,

I guess, we were on adrenaline.

It was one of those no-food days.

Everyone kept saying this guy, Richard Fiske,

is going to tell us how to do new news media correctly because he was

at Guadeloupe and he was at St. Vincent and he's seen the two extremes.

So we hope we were doing this right,

and he's going to write a paper about it,

which he eventually did.

Here you see some books.

There's a lot of pensive moods in those next few days working in that little observatory.

There's Don Swanson and Richard Waitt who wrote the eyewitness account book.

I'm not sure who this gentleman is.

Keith Stoffel, who was with his wife in a plane ever Mount St. Helens when it erupted.

I was living in Tacoma,

living on Vashon Island,

driving home up I-5 and watching the truckers taking things into their own hands,

and they kept the traffic moving really slowly.

They moved at a very slow pace,

a few miles an hour,

and nobody could go faster than them because, if they did,

they would whip up a lot of ash,

as you see in the picture on the right.

That little car, little government Valiant,

we called it Prince Valiant,

and it took us a lot of places.

Volcanic ash and lahar deposits.

With those I-5 drivers,

we have all had to adjust from viewing volcanos as benign to features that can harm;

from seeing them as isolated,

having just isolated monitoring to full networks,

from scientists siloing in our offices to working in partnership to meet societal needs,

from working in isolation from emergency managers to working and planning with them,

even embedding in their offices sometimes to

understand their culture and what we needed to do to get along.

From news media avoidance, perhaps,

the scientists to really encouraging the news media to work with us.

From accepting an uneducated public to educating them.

The lessons for us all,

we all have to remain vigilant.

As scientists, we need to establish our monitoring networks.

We have the plan for it,

with many different groups,

for the next eruption,

and never forget that it's going to happen.

For budding volcanologists, I'd say that volcanology is about rocks,

but it's a means to an end and that end is keeping society safe.

To all of you who've witnessed volcanic eruptions,

if you have a Mount St. Helens story,

write it down for future generations, record it.

For all, learn about the hazards to your community

and inquire of the public officials about what they're

doing in your community, about plans they've made,

and plan and prepare your family and community,

and, importantly, abstain from wishful thinking.

Visit our website.

My colleague, Liz Westby,

and Wendy Stovall, and others around

the Volcano Hazards Program do a great job with their social media posts.

Checkout USGS Volcanoes on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram,

and see our regular activity reports that come out every Friday afternoon.

You can actually sign up to have these sent to you automatically if you wish.

Thank you so much.

Thank you to everybody who's out there listening,

who participated in this eruption and brought us into the 21st century.

Thanks again to the Sno-Isle library system for all your help in putting this together.

Visit our website, and you can see

the little fact sheet that was written this year for the big anniversary.

See the breaking news there about

a big Reddit session on May 18th as well. Great. Thanks all.