Mount St. Helens shows signs of reawakening
LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) – Ten years ago this week, Mount St. Helens awoke from an 18-year geological slumber.
The news media and volcano-watchers flocked to Johnston Ridge, the closest road with a crater view. Steam and ash eruptions shot thousands of feet into the air, and for several weeks, the area near the volcano was closed because of safety concerns.
Over the next three years, a second lava dome slowly appeared in the crater, eventually rising 1,076 feet above the crater floor. By the time the eruption ended in 2008, climbers had already been allowed back to the summit and media attention faded.
Though the mountain isn’t getting as much publicity these days, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey are marking the anniversary to highlight new eruption warning technology they’ve installed around the volcano since then and to remind people that Mount St. Helens will continue to rebuilt itself.
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Importance to Native Americans
American Indian lore contains numerous legends to explain the eruptions of Mount St. Helens and other Cascade volcanoes. The most famous of these is the Bridge of the Gods legend told by the Klickitat people. In their tale, the chief of all the gods and his two sons, Pahto (also called Klickitat) and Wy’east, traveled down theColumbia River from the Far North in search for a suitable area to settle.
They came upon an area that is now called The Dalles and thought they had never seen a land so beautiful. The sons quarreled over the land, so to solve the dispute their father shot two arrows from his mighty bow — one to the north and the other to the south. Pahto followed the arrow to the north and settled there while Wy’east did the same for the arrow to the south. The chief of the gods then built the Bridge of the Gods, so his family could meet periodically.
When the two sons of the chief of the gods fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Loowit, she could not choose between them. The two young chiefs fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. The area was devastated and the earth shook so violently that the huge bridge fell into the river, creating the cascades of the Columbia River Gorge.
For punishment, the chief of the gods struck down each of the lovers and transformed them into great mountains where they fell. Wy’east, with his head lifted in pride, became the volcano known today as Mount Hood. Pahto, with his head bent toward his fallen love, was turned into Mount Adams. The fair Loowit became Mount St. Helens, known to the Klickitats as Louwala-Clough, which means “smoking or fire mountain” in their language (the Sahaptin called the mountain Loowit).
The mountain is also of sacred importance to the Cowlitz and Yakama tribes that also historically lived in the area. They find the area above its tree line to be of exceptional spiritual significance, and the mountain (which they call “Lawetlat’la”, roughly translated as “the smoker”) features prominently in their creation myth, and in some of their songs and rituals. In recognition of this cultural significance, over 12,000 acres (4,900 ha) of the mountain (roughly bounded by the Loowit Trail) have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.