I heard May was Volcano Preparedness Month in Washington State--gee, given the events of May 18th 1980 it’s no wonder why!   This year, Volcano Preparedness Month takes on new meaning with a recent scientific study confirming that Mount St. Helens remains an active volcano which is all the more reason to insure residents an opportunity to become more familiar with volcanic risk in their communities and learn about steps they can take to reduce potential impacts. 

The Washington Military Department’s Emergency Management Division, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory partner with local and federal emergency management agencies to reduce the negative impacts of future eruptions.  Together, the agencies develop and exercise emergency plans with communities; coordinate communications; conduct public education programs; and plan for short- and long-term recovery in the event an eruption or lahar should occur.

Volcano Preparedness Month arrives just in time, as a USGS analysis confirms that Mount St. Helens remains active.  While an eruption is not impending, USGS’s analysis of seismic data shows what GPS data has indicated for six years—that the quiet Mount St. Helens has a new supply of magma slowly re-pressurizing the magma chamber beneath the mountain.

USGS scientists note they expect re-pressurization beneath Mount St. Helens while it remains in its current active period, which began in 1980. Activity may stay at this stage for a long time before any eruption. When a volcano is ready to erupt, it will give multiple warning signs.

Despite the signs and precautions 57 people died when at 8:32 Sunday May 18, 1980, 13-hundred feet of Mt St. Helens blew off with the force of 400 atomic bombs.   Maybe a little preparedness is a pretty good idea.