- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2005

SEATTLE (AP) — Roughly every three seconds, the equivalent of a large dump-truck load of lava — 10 cubic yards — oozes into the crater of Mount St. Helens, and with the molten rock comes a steady drumfire of small earthquakes.

The unremitting pace, going on for 15 months now, is uncommon, said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Dave Sherrod. Specialists say it is not clear what the activity signifies or how much longer it will continue.

“One view of this eruption is that we’re at the end of the eruption that began in 1980,” Mr. Sherrod said. “If it hadn’t been so cataclysmic … it might instead have gone through 30 or 40 years of dome building and small explosions.”

St. Helens’ violent May 18, 1980, eruption blasted 3.7 billion cubic yards of ash and debris off the top of the mountain. Fifty-seven persons died in the blast.

St. Helens rumbled for another six years, extruding 97 million cubic yards of lava onto the crater floor in a series of 22 eruptions that built a 876-foot dome.

The volcano, about 100 miles south of Seattle, fell silent in 1986.

Then, in September 2004, the low-level quakes began — occasionally spiking above magnitude 3. Since then, the mountain has squeezed out about 102 million cubic yards of lava.

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