The United States Geological Service (USGS) recently shared that Mount St. Helens appears to be going through a "recharge" phase. Naturally, every time we hear news about Mount St. Helens having any volcanic activity - even if it is deemed to be non-threatening - we immediately pay attention. But why is that, when there are over 100 volcanoes in the United States - including 19 in Washington State alone?

The answer is obvious: Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, just a little over 40 years ago, in one of the largest eruptions the United States has ever seen. Many people remember that day and lived through the experience as darkness covered the skies of Washington.

But with time, memories fade, and millions have been born since that day. It's easy to forget just how impactful and shocking the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption was.

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How much time did Washington have to prepare? According to the USGS, the first signs of volcanic activity were on March 16, 1980 - just two months before the eruption. Thousands of earthquakes, and dozens of smaller localized eruptions, gave clear signs that the volcano was becoming immensely dangerous. Just how dangerous, however, was uncertain - it's hard to say if anyone prepared for a 9-hour-long eruption.

Indeed, the state was reportedly very underprepared for the aftermath. GovTech reports that at the time, there was no preparedness plan or multi-agency efforts (thankfully, which do exist today). The end result was over $1 billion in damages, according to the Cascades Volcano Observatory, which actively monitors the range for activity and offers preparedness advice in the case of another eruption in our lifetime.

Recently I came upon a remarkable collection from the USGS itself that showcases the land before, during, and after the eruption. Combined with another collection from Getty Images that showcases the area since 2000, these images give a chilling look back on the eruption that changed Washington State forever.

LOOK: Powerful Photos from Mount St. Helens' 1980 Eruption

One of the most impactful days in modern Washington state history was the eruption of Mount St. Helens, a volcano located in the Cascades range, on May 18, 1980. As time has passed, fewer people are alive that remember the images from that day - but they are important to remember the signs, and impact, of such a massive volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest. The area is still constantly monitored for signs of volcanic activity to minimize losses the next time an eruption occurs in the Cascades.

Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton

This short video offers a story and visuals of the eruption in film format.

Looking at Mount St. Helens Over the Years

A photo gallery looking at Mount St. Helens from 2000 to today.

Gallery Credit: Aj Brewster

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