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40th Anniversary of the Mount St. Helens Eruption

It was 40 years ago today that Mount St. Helens in Washington State erupted. Ash and steam poured out and avalanches of snow and ice thundered down the mountain's sides for two months, and then on May 18, 1980 the volcano blew its top. Fifty-seven people were killed, many others injured, and many buildings were destroyed. The huge blast of rock, ash and hot gases devastated an area about 230 square miles.

Similar to our experiences of quarantining at home during the coronavirus pandemic, residents in many states also were confined to their homes. If they ventured outside, they would wear masks to protect themselves from the ash. This went on for several weeks.

In this episode, FEMA speaks with current and former FEMA staff who experienced the eruption and subsequent ash that blew east into Spokane and Montana where our speakers lived. Chris Jonientz-Trisler, Volcanologist and retired-FEMA Division Director; Jay LaPlante, Region 10 Tribal Liaison; and Elaine Ike, former FEMA Community Relations Specialist, share their unique experiences

Last Updated: May 18, 2020