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Teachers Guide to Stratovolcanoes of the World
A Fictional Story

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Mount St. Helens, Washington USA:
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A Fictional Story - Steve and Ed's Excellent Adventure

Steve's eyelids fluttered open.

"Those birds," he thought. "How can they be so cheerful in the morning?"

He climbed out of his sleeping bag and out of the tent. Steve and his buddy Ed were camping on a ridge just northeast of Rifle Lake in Washington's Cascade Range. From their campsite, Steve and Ed had great views of Mt. Rainier to the north and Mount St. Helens to the southwest. They had driven down from Seattle to spend the weekend at Mount St. Helens. Unfortunately, they could not climb the mountain because of the recent volcanic activity. Ed thought this was silly, but then Ed was from California and had not seen the pictures of the eruption about 6 weeks earlier. Still, they could see the mountain, and with binoculars, they could pick out what looked like forest roads on the north face. It was Sunday May 18, 1980. The morning was beautiful. The air was clear and crisp and the sun was warm.

"Time to get up!" Steve called to Ed. "It's after eight! Are you going to sleep all day?"

Steve took out his binoculars to look around while Ed crawled out of his sleeping bag. Steve and Ed had been keeping an eye on Mount St. Helens during their hike the day before. The boys had hoped to catch a glimpse of the mountain erupting, but there had been no activity. Suddenly the ground beneath them began to tremble.

"Wow dude! That was a gnarly earthquake!" said Ed.

He was a native of L.A. and considered himself an expert on earthquakes. Steve was not paying attention to Ed. He was staring south with his binoculars.

"Look! Over there! Mount St. Helens!" Ed grabbed his binoculars.

"Looks like a landslide!" he exclaimed.

Moments after the earthquake, there was a huge blast from the side of the mountain which seemed to flatten the surrounding forest. This was followed by another explosion sending a gray-brown cloud of ash into the sky above the volcano. While they watched, the cloud rose high into the sky and then flattened like a gigantic mushroom -- just like pictures they had seen of atomic bomb blasts. The explosions were even more frightening because there was no sound accompanying the blasts.

Steve and Ed watched the activity for the next 30 minutes. The visible area around Mount St. Helens was gray with ash and debris. The green forest from this morning was gone.

"Wow, dude! That was awesome! What happened?"

There was total destruction in an 8-mile radius around the crater. The boys could not see the trees which lay on the ground like piles of matchsticks, in some places as far as 19 miles from the crater. In other areas, the trees stood like skeletons, stripped of their branches and needles.

"Look at the mountain!" Steve exclaimed. "Something is flowing down the side!"

The boys trained their binoculars back on the mountain. Mud was flowing down the mountain--mud from the melted snow and ice at the top of the mountain. The mud followed the stream channels down the sides of the mountain and out of view. Unknown to the boys, the mudflow did not stop when it reached the bottom. Downed trees now choked it as it roared through the river channels taking bridges out as it passed.

The boys continued to watch until they realized the sun was gone, blocked by the thick cloud of ash overhead. Steve's growling stomach reminded him of breakfast and he was amazed to see it was only 10 am.

"We'd better get out of here. Our parents will be worried."
"Yeah." Ed agreed. "Dude! What an excellent adventure! I am glad that we weren't any closer, though! Those volcanoes really mean business when they blow!"

Steve and Ed are fictitious but the description of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens is accurate.