Mount St. Helens rumbles
For the first time in 18 years,
Mount St. Helens in Washington came alive recently, spewing a huge
column of white steam and ash. Seismologists with the U.S.
Geological Survey predicted further eruptions are likely and issued
an Alert Level 3. The warning levels range from 1 to 4, with a Level
4 issued when an eruption is occurring.
A major eruption is possible, which
would send projectiles from the dome and crater floor skyward. Ash
and smoke could ascend over 10,000 feet in the air and be taken
downwind hundreds and even thousands of miles. Minor melting of a
glacier could cause a debris flow which could affect nearby
The movement of Mount St. Helens is
related to shifting of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. This is a
continent-sized chunk of crust that floats atop the Earth's molten
core. For centuries, Mount St. Helens has been the most active
volcano in the Pacific Northwest because it lies along a
particularly weak area of the crust.
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Florida beaches in tough shape
Many of Florida's beaches, including
a few of the most famous ones, have taken on a much different look
after this season's parade of hurricanes. Tons of sand have been
shifted, eroded or completely washed away, leaving a complicated and
costly fix-up problem.
In the southwestern part of the
state, Hurricane Charley tore a pass one-third of a mile wide
through North Captiva Island. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, which
followed nearly identical paths along the Atlantic Coast side of
Florida, caused deep erosion at New Smyrna Beach that exposed
building and home foundations. Parts of U.S. 1 in the Melbourne area
were washed away.
In the Panhandle region, the
sugary-white sand was pushed violently inland, burying street signs,
park benches and cars before coming to a rest inside hundreds of
homes. The sand is filled with bits and pieces of metal, wood,
concrete, glass and other debris, which means it will have to be
meticulously cleaned before it can be moved back into place.
Experts say it could take up to
seven years to restore some of the beaches back to where they were
before the hurricanes struck. And that's assuming no further
damage occurs with future tropical systems.
Beaches are the cornerstone of
Florida's tourist industry. For every $1 spent on beach
restoration, $8 in tourist spending occurs.