When visiting the Pacific Northwest three years ago, one of the most unsettling sites I saw while driving down Highway 5 was a rather large mountain in the distance with a chunk off the top. It took a minute to recognize it as Mount St. Helens, the aftermath of the big catastrophic event which took place thirty-three years previously.
Eruption covers the terrifying time when this mountain blew up on May 18, 1980. 57 deaths were accounted for, and it could have have been worse, as the eruption came on a Sunday morning and not during a workweek, when logging operations in the area would have been occurring. The lava and ash flows destroyed vast stretches of forest; the mud flow made it all the way to Highway 5.
Up to the time of Mount St. Helens eruption, it seemed inconceivable that the contiguous United States would have a real live volcano. Earthquakes? Sure. Tornadoes and other weather happenings? Of course. Volcanoes? Leave those to more exotic locales – until 1980. Of course, after it happened, the local populace certainly became more aware of the geologic uncertainties of the Cascade Range and the Pacific Coast region in general.
The author also delves extensively into the historical background of the area surrounding Mount St. Helens, when the logging industry ran full tilt, specifically the Weyerhaeuser company and their role in the local economy. At one time, the company owned a significant part of the woodlands closest to the mountain, and were logging it up until the time of the eruption.
The book is a detailed but fascinating story of this area of the Pacific Northwest, and gives the reader plenty of room for thought for the possibilities of natural catastrophes and how we can better act on them when they happen.
(William Hicks, Information Services)