On the 19th of May 1980, the Mt St Helens eruption caused deaths and mayhem on two different fronts. On one side there were the victims of the natural disaster, on the other, the people that lost their lives due to the sudden, unexpected riots that took over Miami just as sudden as the Mt St Helens eruption.
The Natural Disaster
Mt St Helens was an active volcano, a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a cumulus of active volcanoes that includes roughly 75 percent of all active and dormant volcanoes on Earth. The latest activity was recorded a month ago in the Aleutian Islands. No lives were lost in the recent eruptions.
However, 26 years ago, the inhabitants of Miami were not as lucky. On the eve of the 19th of May, there was an earthquake of approximately 5.0 on the Richter scale. This was the first sign that Mt St Helens was awake and kicking.
After the quake, clouds of thick smoke covered a wide area around the volcano, leveling trees and houses as the burning ashes spread faster than some people were able to evacuate. The total number of lives lost amounted to 57. According to the analysis of the aftermath, more than 250 houses were destroyed in the Mt St Helens eruption.
Some eyewitnesses declared that the explosion was entirely visible from 40 miles northeast of the mountain. The shock wave created by the earthquake was felt for hundreds of miles.
Due to the chaos generated by the Mt St Helens eruption, Miami was flooded with rioters. The papers reported that “blacks looted the stores, taking advantage of the general confusion.” Unfortunately, back in the 1980’s the press was rather biased, so stories of white police officers being forced to shoot a 14 years old African American boy may not be one hundred percent accurate.
The riot didn’t claim as many lives as the earthquake and the explosion, but it did end with at least 18 victims. After things had cooled down, roughly 600 individuals were in jail, and 350 people were in need of medical attention due to injuries.
According to the researchers that studied the volcano after the incident, Mt St Helens was 1,200 shorter after the eruption.
Image source: Freestockphotos