Mount St. Helens Eruption: Oregonian Images From 1980 Capture Awesome Power, Deadly Destruction


Mount St. Helens blew up on May 18, 1980.

“The initial explosion was heard more than 150 miles away,” The Oregonian wrote the next day, with the volcanic eruption flattening forests and triggering flash floods and massive mudflows.

The Oregon Journal warned that the “angry mountain” might not be done even after an eruption “greater than the force of an atomic bomb.”

“[A] drifting column of steam and pumice … turned day into night,” The New York Times reported.

The awesome natural event killed 57 people, including trapped motorists, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist at an observation post, and 83-year-old Harry R. Truman, who had refused to evacuate from the lodge he owned near Mount St. Helens.

News articles, scientific papers and books have been written about it. But pictures may tell the story best, showing locals alternately fascinated and terrified as they watched the eruption from afar, towns paralyzed by ash, the landscape around the mountain obliterated.

Above is a selection of images from The Oregonian’s archives.