[Two markers, side-by-side, describe the events that created the Devastated Area.]A Night to RememberMay 19, 1915
You are standing in the aftermath of the volcanic destruction known as the Devastated Area. Late on the evening of May 19, 1915, a large steam explosion shattered the lava that filled Lassen Peak's crater the previous days. Glowing blocks of hot lava fell on the summit and snow-covered upper flanks of the volcano. The impact touched off an avalanche of snow and lava rocks a half-mile wide. It roared down the volcano's flank in front of you and continued up and over Emigrant Pass behind you.
As the lava blocks broke into fragments, the snow melted, creating a mudflow and volcanic debris, called a lahar. Though with less force, the torrent rushed down the path of the avalanche and was deflected by Emigrant Pass into Lost Creek, sweeping through homsteads.
Elmer SorahanHad it not been for the heroics of Elmer Sorahan, who narrowly escaped the flood and ran three miles to warn others, many people might have died. As it was, no lives were lost, though six homesteads were destroyed.
In the night his dog barked, raved and stuck his paws against him...to wake him up. Elmer thought it might be...a bear or panther, so he got up...He..,peeped out to see what the dog was barking at. He saw the mud flow coming like a wave about twelve feet high....
From Wid Hall's account of the May 19, 1915, mudflow
Marker 2:Three Days LaterMay 22, 1915
The volcano's crater welled up again with lava following the May 19th eruption. Like a lid covering a boiling pot, the pressure built. This time it erupted with even greater force. The blast hurled rock fragments and pumice (lava filled with gas bubbles) high into the air. A huge column of volcanic ash and gas rose more than 30,000 feet and could be seen 150 miles distant.
The falling pumice created yet another avalanche, a pyroclastic flow of hot ash, pumice, rock fragments, and gas. The avalanche rapidly gathered and melted snow in its path, transforming into a highly liquid lahar and following the path of the May 19th lahar or mudflow. It rushed miles down Lost Creek, flushing volumes of water into lower Hat Creek Valley once again.