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Experts on hand at Mount St. Helens for eruption anniversary

Experts on hand at Mount St. Helens for eruption anniversary

Volcano Awareness Month also includes watching movies, online discussions

Scientists and preparedness experts will be on hand May 18, 2024, at the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater to commemorate the tragic 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. It’s just one of several events 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.

The month of May is chosen each year to be Volcano Awareness Month in Washington to commemorate the tragic eruption of Mount St. Helens that killed 57 people, spewing forth 540 million tons of ash and changing our understanding of Washington volcanoes forever.

Typically, the public would be invited to Johnston Ridge Observatory with a great view of the Mount St. Helens lava dome. But the observatory and Highway 504 at Mile Post 45.2 are both closed after a landslide caused catastrophic damage to a nearby bridge. WSDOT says on its construction project website that permanent access will not be restored for public or administrative use at least until the latter part of 2026. And even after that, it will take time for the observatory to re-open.

However, the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater is open with scientists and preparedness experts available to talk about the volcano from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 18, 2024. This facility is located at milepost 43 on State Highway 504. The address is 19000 Spirit Lake Hwy, Toutle, WA. 

Can’t make it? You have other ways to participate this month.

Volcano experts will be watching the movie Skyfire and live-posting about the experience on X (Twitter). They’ll start the movie at about 7 p.m., May 8, 2024. Follow @waShakeOut and @USGSVolcanoes. Starring Jason Isaacs, everything goes wrong at a theme park built on a volcano when the danger of the volcano is underestimated — basically, Jurassic Park but with a volcano instead of dinosaurs. Skyfire is available to stream on Prime Free with Ads or to rent on Prime or YouTube. Also, check your local library.

A Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session is slated to go from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 16, 2024. A free Reddit account is needed to participate, but not to read the responses. Follow this account to be notified when the session is live.

From 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., May 22, 2024, Cascades Volcano Observatory Scientist-in-Charge Jon Major will give a talk about at the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland. Tickets are required.

Cascades Volcano Observatory has also released a new poster honoring the heritage of Lawetlat’la, the name given to Mount St. Helens by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and released a new paper looking at the risk management solutions that have been developed over the past 44 years at the volcano.

“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 Rainer, Mount Adams, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak,” says Brian Terbush, volcano program preparedness coordinator for the Washington Emergency Management Division. “If there’s a volcano in your backyard, it’s a perfect time to understand how it’s eruption might impact your life and what you can do to prepare for it!”

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

Learn more about our state’s volcanoes at and