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Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Mount St. Helens finally stopped erupting last week...a mere four years after it began.

The crater started trembling on Sept. 23, 2004, but it was only this month that scientists said that the eruption was finally over, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells us. Everyone had been fearing a reprise of the 1980 catastrophe when the tremors first began. (CNN kept cutting away from Kerry vs. Bush to the steaming mountain, the story notes.)  But Mount St. Helens has confounded the world's volcanists by keeping it at a slow burn for the past 40 months:

More than anything, scientists say, Mount St. Helens showed the world how gentle a killer can become. It came in like a lamb. It went out like a lamb. It hardly even burped. "There was very little volume of gas," said [geologist] Dan Dzurisin.

What made this eruption so sedate and calm? The lava swelled and cooled in formations that were similar to previous eruptions, but at a rate that was more akin to toothpaste oozing from a tube than the cover of Dianetics. Scientists are still crunching the data on the crater's aberrent behavior, and it may be a while yet before they come to any conclusions, the story concludes:

"It's really difficult from our perspective of having our nose right down in it," [University of Washington seismologist Steve] Malone said. "It's the sort of thing you want to talk about over a beer."

 --Suzy Khimm