Landslide Dammed Lakes at Mount St. Helens, Washington

by William Meyer, US Geological Survey, Tacoma, WA, USA,
Martha A. Sabol, US Geological Survey, Tacoma, WA, USA,
Robert Schuster, US Geological Survey, Tacoma, WA, USA,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Landslide Dams: Processes, Risk, and Mitigation


The collapse of the north face of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, and the debris avalanche that resulted blocked outflow from Spirit Lake and Coldwater and South Fork Castle Creeks. Spirit Lake began to increase in size and lakes began to form in the canyons of Coldwater and South Fork Castle Creeks. Coldwater and Castle Lakes would have overtopped their respective blockages in late 1981 or early 1982. Catastrophic flooding would have occurred from the breakout of Coldwater Lake while serious flooding probably would have resulted from the breakout of Castle Lake. As a result, the level of both lakes was stabilized with spillways in 1981. The three blockages are stable against liquefaction and gravitationally induced slope failure. The existence of groundwater in the blockages was observed in piezometers installed between 1981 and 1983. Groundwater mounds with water levels above lake level exist under the crest of all of the blockages.

Subject Headings: Groundwater | Landslides | Lakes | Rivers and streams | Floods | Embankment dams | Outflow | Spillways | Washington | United States

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