This week, back in 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. It is, so far, the most disruptive volcanic eruption in the US. Call me crazy, but perhaps "volcano monitoring" isn't quite as frivolous as Piyush Jindal suggested* last year when he rebutted the unofficial state of the union address (Presidents don't give a State of the Union Address in the year of their first inauguration).
57 people were killed during the eruption, but it was a fraction of the likely total had the eruption happened during the work week instead of on a Sunday.
My dad splurged on a helicopter tour over the crater during one of his first visits to Oregon and Washington, so thanks to him, and a perfectly positioned Horizon Air flight between Portland and Seattle, I've had two opportunities to look straight down into the crater. I don't have any particularly insightful thoughts having done that except, shit, this is some immense stuff. The stuff that makes mountains and islands and disrupts thousands of flights (thanks a lot Iceland).
Portland is far enough away that I'm in no immediate danger from lava or ash. Earthquakes are a whole other thing.
And Portland has its own volcano, in the city limits. Mt. Tabor is, technically, extinct. It is the green mound of trees in the middle of this photo.
* Oh, and Piyush was lying when he said "$140 million for something called volcano monitoring" because THIS is what the $140 million budget was for:
US Geological Survey
For an additional amount for ''Surveys, Investigations, and Research'', $140,000,000, for repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades including stream gages, and seismic and volcano monitoring systems; national map activities; and other critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects.