The Unheeded Warning
ON MAY 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in the United States broke a silence of 123 years. A mighty eruption then tore 1,300 feet from its top, devastated some 230 square miles of beautiful landscape, and killed more than 60 people.a
The eruption did not come without warning. Nearly two months in advance, a sizable earthquake occurred in the area, with more quakes following at an increasing rate. On March 27, the mountain belched out a plume of ash and steam that rose four miles into the air.b Although the mountain had become relatively calm by April, a noticeable bulge was forming on the north face and was growing at the rate of five feet per day.
For the scientists these signs clearly indicated an impending eruption. Warnings were issued for people to get away from the mountain. But the warnings went unheeded by many.
Harry Truman, a lodge owner at Spirit Lake near the foot of the mountain, refused to be evacuated. He had lived there for 50 years and could not believe that his beloved mountain would change the tranquillity of his surroundings. Others drove around roadblocks on remote logging roads in order to camp and watch the mountain in the deceptively peaceful woods.
When the gigantic explosion came, ash and hot gases were hurled from the mountain at speeds of 200 miles per hour! Millions of fir trees were leveled, and the lives of unheeding people were snuffed out. Some died with cameras to their eyes. Forty feet of boiling mud buried Harry Truman and his lodge.
Mud flows were moving away from the mountain as fast as 50 miles per hour. When one helicopter pilot warned people in the path of a mud flow, some refused to heed his words. He said: “I couldn’t believe it. I told them what was coming and they just laughed and waved me away.” Shortly thereafter their laughter changed to panic.
This refusal to believe reliable warnings is not unusual, especially when these pertain to something that people have never experienced personally. They reason that nothing will change because surrounding conditions have continued the same since the days of their forefathers. Such an attitude will prove to be disastrous if it causes one to ignore an ancient warning of a coming catastrophe that will far exceed the eruption of Mount St. Helens. What is that catastrophe? And what is your attitude toward the warning? Will you wave it off in disbelief, or are you willing to heed it and live? See what it is in the next article.
a One foot = 0.3 meter; one square mile = 2.6 square kilometers.
b One mile = 1.6 kilometers.
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H. Armstrong Roberts