Magma building as Mount St Helens readies for 34th anniversary

MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. -- Magma is growing under the crater at Mount St. Helens as they get ready to mark the 34th anniversary of its big eruption. It's this Sunday -- the same day of the week as when the blast occurred. Scientists say as the volcanic activity grows, so does the technology to give us a warning.

Mount St. Helens today looks frozen in place all covered in snow. But, deep down there's a lot of hot activity.

"Magma is repressurizing beneath (Mt. St. Helens)," said scientist Peter Frenzen.

Tourists are flocking to get an up-close look at the volcano as we approach the anniversary of the 1980 eruption. It was 8:32 a.m. when a 5.1 earthquake shook the mountain. It's north face collapsed sending the eruptive force sideways. A plume of ash poured into the southwest Washington sky and a debris flow filled the Toutle River.

Vulcanologist David Johnston lost his life. He and 56 others died including Harry Truman, who refused to leave his lodge. The blast nearly took the life of our colleague, KOMO photographer Dave Crockett.

And now what? Geologists say they're detecting more and more deep earthquakes. It could indicate another eruption, but nothing imminent. "So we don't whether it's years, decades or sometime in the future," Frenzen said.

But Frenzen says with the help of new spider sensors and other technology they believe they'll get plenty of warning should Mount St. Helens decide to do it again.

In honor of the anniversary, the monument will be open Sunday free to the public.