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Mount St. Helen's continues to emit steam, ash

Volcano alert at level three

The mountain continues to rumble. For more than a week Mount St. Helen's has been undergoing a chain of seismic activity, as well as several steam and ash emissions.

The latest emission came this morning (Tuesday) at 9:15 a.m. According to the Joint Information Center in Vancouver, an ash fall alert has been activated for parts of northeastern Skamania County in response to this morning's emission.

Officials from the Joint Information Center also noted that during Monday's gas flight, which is a flight made over the volcano to collect gas samples, a significant amount of carbon dioxide was found in the sample. Officials noted that this signals that magma is rising closer to the surface of the volcano.

According to Joint Information Center officials, over the course of the past 24 hours the dome of the volcano has pushed up an additional 50 feet, bringing the total amount of movement to 150 feet in the dome. This is another indicator that magma is moving under the volcano's surface. Officials noted that it does not mean that pressure within the volcano is building.

"I am continuing to closely monitor the developments at Mount St. Helen's in coordination with our state Emergency Management Division and the U.S. Geological Survey," Gov. Gary Locke said Monday. "The state Emergency Operations Center is prepared to provide assistance should the need arise."

This morning's steam and ash emission is nothing new for Mount St. Helen's, which experienced a 2,000-foot steam plume yesterday morning around 9:47 a.m. Officials believe that yesterday's steam plume was not from hot material rising in the mountain, instead they believe it occurred when glacier ice on the mountain reached a boiling point.

As the mountain continues to experience seismic activity and steam and ash emissions, the plug that is likely blocking the magma is becoming weaker. According to scientists involved in the study of Mount St. Helen's, this increases the chances of a larger eruption.

At this point, the volcano alert for Mount St. Helen's remains at alert level three, which means a volcanic eruption appears imminent.

Because of the nature of the volcano and the activities seen over the past few weeks, the Forest Service recently closed Ape Cave after visitors discovered a rock had dislodged from the lava tube's roof. The cave is located near the town of Cougar, which is south of the mountain. Also closed was the Mount Margaret back country located north of Spirit Lake and east of Coldwater Lake. Roads near the mountain have also been closed, including State Route 540 starting at milepost 43. The Johnson Ridge Observatory also remains closed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also closed air traffic within a five-mile radius of the mountain.

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