Mistakes Led to Needless Deaths From Worst Volcanic Blast

Looking at Mount St. Helens in hindsight, and trying to assess the unknown danger of a volcano blast.


Government officials had plenty of time to ensure that everyone was safely evacuated from the area around Mount St. Helens, the Washington State volcano that erupted on May 18, 1980. The mountain had been showing signs that it might blow for months before that fatal Sunday. But logging interests, which owned most of the land around the volcano, were at odds with geologists over how big the danger zone should be. And no one anticipated the strength of the eruption, which spewed 540 million tons of ash into the air and killed 57 people. [Find out why Mount St. Helens is still dangerous.]