Volcano Awareness Month: Numerous activities available in person, social media

Scientists, preparedness officials on-hand for 44th anniversary of Mount St. Helens eruption


Scientists and preparedness officials will be at the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater to commemorate the tragic 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens on Saturday, May 18.

On May 18, 1980, a powerful eruption that could be heard from over 200 miles away occurred as Mount St. Helens blew its top. On May 18, 2024, 44 years since the eruption, scientists and officials will be available to talk about the volcano from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, 19000 Spirit Lake Highway, Toutle.

Usually the event would be held at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, but the highway remains closed to the observatory due to a landslide last year. The Washington state Department of Transportation construction project website states permanent access for public and administrative use to the Johnston Ridge Observatory will not be restored until the latter half of 2026.

The event at the science and learning center is just one of several taking place between the Washington Emergency Management Division and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Cascades Volcano Observatory in May for Volcano Awareness Month, which includes lectures, watching a movie together and an online question-and-answer session on Reddit, a news release by the Washington Emergency Management Division stated.

The month of May is chosen each year to be Volcano Awareness Month in Washington to commemorate the Mount St. Helens eruption, which killed 57 people and spewed 540 million tons of ash and changed the understanding of Washington volcanoes forever, the release stated.

“May is Volcano Awareness Month, a time we want you to not just look at Mount St. Helens, but remember we have four other active volcanoes in our state — Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak,” said Brian Terbush, volcano program preparedness coordinator for the Washington Emergency Management Division, in the release. “If there’s a volcano in your backyard, it’s a perfect time to understand how its eruption might impact your life and what you can do to prepare for it.”

Other ways to participate in Volcano Awareness Month include a “Reddit Ask-Me-Anything” session slated for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday, May 16. A free Reddit account is needed to participate but not to read the responses. Follow reddit.com/user/waquakeprepare to be notified when the session is live.

Cascades Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Jon Major will give a talk at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., May 22. Tickets are required and can be purchased at scienceontaporwa.org/events/al berta_may_22_volcanoes.

The Cascades Volcano Observatory has released a new poster honoring the heritage of Lawetlat’la, the name given to Mount St. Helens by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. It also released a new paper, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00445-023-01663-y, looking at the risk management solutions that have been developed over the past 44 years at the volcano, the release stated.

Cascades Volcano Observatory will not be holding a public open house this month but will be planning an event in 2025 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption, the release stated. This year, follow USGS Volcanoes social media for daily posts about volcanoes, volcano hazards, eruptions and preparedness.

Learn more about Washington state’s volcanoes at mil.wa.gov/volcano and usgs.gov/ob servatories/cvo.