<p><a id="i8.a" title="Mount St. Helens" href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/05/mount-st-helens/funk-text">Mount St. Helens</a> looks serene in a photograph taken from the shores of Spirit Lake in Washington State in 1973—a few years before the volcano's infamous 1980 eruption.</p><p>Today marks the 30th anniversary of the blast, which killed 57 people and leveled hundreds of square miles of pristine old-growth forest.</p><p>"The eruption really caused drastic changes in the forest ecosystem," said <a id="ygne" title="Mark Swanson" href="http://www.natural-resources.wsu.edu/people/faculty/swanson.html">Mark Swanson</a>, a forest ecologist at Washington State University.</p><p>Before the eruption, the dense forest cover meant there was little light and low wind speeds in the area. But afterward, Swanson said, "you had a very open system ... with a layer of volcanic ash over most of it, varying in depth from hundreds of meters to just a few inches."</p><p><em>—Ker Than</em></p><p><strong>MORE MOUNT ST. HELENS COVERAGE</strong> <br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/100518-mount-st-helens-30th-anniversary-science-environment/">Mount St. Helens Still Highly Dangerous, 30 Years Later</a><br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a id="jkth" title="Pictures: &quot;Mountain Transformed&quot; in National Geographic Magazine" href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/05/mount-st-helens/cook-photography">Mount St. Helens Pictures: 30 Years Later</a><br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a id="mvrc" title="Interactive: Rebirth of the Blast Zone" href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/05/mount-st-helens/blast-zone-animation">Mount St. Helens Interactive: Rebirth of the Blast Zone</a><br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a id="wgdb" title="&quot;Mountain With a Death Wish&quot; [1981 National Geographic Magazine Article]" href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/1981/01/mount-st-helens/findley-text">"Mountain With a Death Wish" (1981 <em>National Geographic</em> Magazine Article)</a><br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/05/photogalleries/100518-mount-st-helens-americas-most-dangerous-volcanoes-science-pictures/">Pictures: America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes</a><br><strong>•</strong> &nbsp; <a id="of0s" title="Mount St. Helens May Erupt for Decades, Scientists Suggest" href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/03/070329-helens-volcano.html">Mount St. Helens May Erupt for Decades, Scientists Suggest (2007)</a> </p>

Mount St. Helens, Before the Blast

Mount St. Helens looks serene in a photograph taken from the shores of Spirit Lake in Washington State in 1973—a few years before the volcano's infamous 1980 eruption.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the blast, which killed 57 people and leveled hundreds of square miles of pristine old-growth forest.

"The eruption really caused drastic changes in the forest ecosystem," said Mark Swanson, a forest ecologist at Washington State University.

Before the eruption, the dense forest cover meant there was little light and low wind speeds in the area. But afterward, Swanson said, "you had a very open system ... with a layer of volcanic ash over most of it, varying in depth from hundreds of meters to just a few inches."

—Ker Than

MORE MOUNT ST. HELENS COVERAGE
  Mount St. Helens Still Highly Dangerous, 30 Years Later
  Mount St. Helens Pictures: 30 Years Later
  Mount St. Helens Interactive: Rebirth of the Blast Zone
  "Mountain With a Death Wish" (1981 National Geographic Magazine Article)
  Pictures: America's Ten Most Dangerous Volcanoes
  Mount St. Helens May Erupt for Decades, Scientists Suggest (2007)

Photograph courtesy U.S. Forest Service

Mount St. Helens Pictures: Before and After the Blast

From snow-capped peak to smoldering crater, see how the major eruption 30 years ago today changed the face of the famous volcano.

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