Last summer, I was determined to take the kids on a road trip to a place that would not only be education but unforgettable. That place ended up being to Mt. St. Helens. In all of the years I’ve lived in WA (and when I visited in the summers) I had never been either. So it was the perfect spot!
We decided to visit the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is within 5 miles of the north face of the volcano. The center is set into the hillside and blends perfectly with the surroundings.
The center has 10,000 square feet of space that hosts interactive displays, remembrance plaques of some people who perished during the eruption, a gift shop, a staffed information desk and a beautiful theater which shows a short movie about the eruption and ends with a glorious view of the volcano.
My family’s favorite part of the center? The “Create An Earthquake” machine.
After going through the center and watching the movie, we headed outside for the Junior Rangers tour. My kids went on a scavenger hunt with two Park Rangers and learned a lot of about the landscape and the history of the volcano and surrounding areas.
Did you know?
- The eruption was the only significant one to occur in the contiguous 48 US states since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California.
- It was the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
- 57 people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed.
- Mount St. Helens released 24 megatons of thermal energy, 7 of which was a direct result of the blast. This is equivalent to 1,600 times the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
- State and federal agencies estimated that over 2.4 million cubic yards of ash, equivalent to about 900,000 tons in weight, were removed from highways and airports in Washington.
- Within 3 minutes, the lateral blast, traveling at more than 300 miles per hour, blew down and scorched 230 square miles of forest.
- The dense ash cloud turned daylight into darkness in eastern Washington, causing streetlights to turn on in Yakima and Ritzville.
- The volcanic ash cloud drifted east across the United States in 3 days and encircled Earth in 15 days.
- Noticeable ash fell in 11 states.
On this day 32 years ago, Washington state changed forever. It was proven to us that nature can be tragic, heartbreaking, scary and interesting. Scientists use this tragedy as a learning tool and hopefully, with the technology today, when it happens again – we will be better prepared.
Were you affected by the Mt. St. Helens eruption? What do you remember, where were you? Tell us your story below!