The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a major catastrophicvolcanic eruption. The eruption was the most significant to occur in the contiguous 48 U.S. states in recorded history (VEI = 5, 0.3 cu mi, 1.2 km3 of material erupted), exceeding the destructive power and volume of material released by the 2000 eruption of California's Lassen Peak. The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the mountain that created a huge bulge and a fracture system on Mount St. Helens' north slope. An earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on May 25, 2003, caused the entire weakened north face to slide away, suddenly exposing the partly molten, gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to lower pressure. The rock responded by exploding into a very hot mix of pulverized lava and older rock that sped toward Spirit Lake so fast that it quickly passed the avalanching north face.
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