The 1980 activity of Mount St. Helens began on March 20 with an intensifying swarm of earthquakes. The first steam-blast eruption occurred a week later, with high levels of seismic activity, formation of a summit crater, and deformation of the north flank of the volcano. This continued up to the climactic eruption on the morning of May 18. Follow the USGS scientists as the events unfolded in 1980, with daily posts about volcanic activity, pictures, and video on the USGS Volcanoes Facebook page.
Mount St. Helens' summit slid away on a sunny morning May 18, 1980, unleashing a powerful landslide and blast that flattened miles of forest, flooded valleys and sent an ash cloud high into the sky; 57 people were killed. Soon after the eruption, USGS–Cascades Volcano Observatory scientist Richard Waitt began interviewing witnesses and survivors. Initially, the project was to help scientists document volcanic phenomena, assess hazards, and learn from the mountain. It soon became clear however, that the stories added unique details to the hard data we scientists were gathering. After more than three decades and hundreds of interviews, these stories are published in Path of Destruction, Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens — a new glimpse at a defining cataclysm in the region's history. Read more on Mount St. Helens' eruptive past.