In a three-day series, The Columbian offers a detailed look into the storied volcano three decades after it forever altered the Southwest Washington landscape
o SUNDAY: How the area has been used since the eruption.
Regulations and lack of infrastructure have stymied development. Page A6
o MONDAY: Life returns to the devastated lands around the volcano.
o TUESDAY: Remembering E-Day, the 18th of May.
At 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens exploded with the force of a 20-megaton bomb.
In a matter of minutes, the volcano radically reshaped a 230-square-mile swath of Southwest Washington’s forested landscape.
Human management has been much less decisive since 1980.
We’ve rebuilt the sleepy, two-lane Spirit Lake Memorial Highway into a modern marvel of highway engineering, but it dead-ends after 52 miles. We’ve constructed five visitors centers along the highway, and periodically closed three of them — one permanently. We’ve set aside thousands of acres for scientific research under Forest Service management, but hunters and snowmobilers worry about losing access if it’s turned over to the National Park Service.