Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beauty and Danger

From a distance, Mt. St. Helens (at right in photo) seems a benign presence in southwestern Washington. But this member of the Cascade Range is the most active volcano in the continental U.S. and has a lethal past: 57 died when it erupted in May 1980. Its summit had been off-limits to hikers for two years when, in 2006, the danger of an imminent eruption was judged to have subsided and the Forest Service reopened the mountain, setting a 100-permits-per-day limit.
Mt. Rainier looms in the distance as steam and gas waft from a lava dome (left center) in the crater of Mt. St. Helens. Last fall, a volcano expert for the U.S. Geological Survey said the dome was growing by about 700 dump-truck loads of material daily.
A pale moon hangs over the crater of Mt. St. Helens, shrouded by steam. The volcano is a volatile facet of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a band of volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates over an area that includes temblor-battered California.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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