Mount St. Helens producing lava at astonishing pace

Fifteen months after Mount St. Helens reawakened, the &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/2000/12/19/1540.html' target=_blank>volcano is continuing to release massive amounts of lava in an unusual geologic display that in some respects confounds scientists.

Roughly every three seconds, a large dump truck load's worth of lava _ 10 cubic yards _ oozes into the mountain's crater. And with the sticky molten rock comes a steady drumfire of small earthquakes.

The unremitting, monthslong pace is not common, said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Dave Sherrod. Experts say it is unclear what the activity signifies or how long it will continue.

"One view of this eruption is that we're at the end of the eruption that began in 1980," Sherrod said. "If it hadn't been so cataclysmic ... it might instead have gone through 30 or 40 years of domebuilding and small explosions."

St. Helens' violent May 18, 1980, eruption blasted 3.7 billion cubic yards of ash and debris off the top of the mountain. Fifty-seven people died in the blast, which left a gaping crater in place of the perfect, snowclad cone that had marked the original 9,677-foot (2,903-meter) peak known as "America's Mount Fuji."