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Mount St.Helens Unexpectedly Explodes
2005 03 09

by Mitch Battros - ECTV

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At 5:25 PM (Pacific) Mount St. Helens erupted spewing ash and rock six miles into the sky. Airlines have been ordered to stay clear of a 20 mile radius. The ash explosion happened around 5:25 p.m., about an hour after a 2.0 magnitude quake rumbled on the east side of the mountain, said Bill Steele, coordinator of the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network at the University of Washington.

Steele said he did not believe the explosion had increased the risk of a significant eruption and noted that recent flights over the volcano's crater did not reveal high levels of gases.

Steele said the ash burst may have been triggered by partial collapse of a lava dome in the crater, which has been growing steadily over the last several months. "Until we get a better view in the crater we won't know," Steele said.

Steele said there had been no increase in quake activity before the explosion. "The seismicity had been continuing just as it had been," she said.

On May 18, 1980, the volcano 100 miles south of Seattle blew its top, killing 57 people and covered the region with gritty ash.

***Watch for a follow-up report late tonight or early morning.

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