40 years after eruption, outbreak sparks parallels

Mount St. Helens eruption
Mount St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980. (U.S. Forest Service Photo)

Seismologist Steve Malone feels a magnitude-5.1 rumble of deja vu whenever he hears the latest developments in the debate over reopening businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It reminds Malone of the debate that raged in the days before Mount St. Helens blew its top on May 18, 1980, devastating more than 150 square miles of forest land around the volcano in southwestern Washington state, spewing ash all the way to Idaho, causing more than $1 billion in damage and killing 57 people.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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