MOUNT ST. HELENS, Wash. (AP) _ Mount St. Helens began belching ash and a huge column of white steam Friday after days of rumblings and earthquakes that suggested the volcano that erupted with cataclysmic force in 1980 was about to blow its top again.
``This is exactly the kind of event we've been predicting,'' said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Cynthia Gardner.
The steam cloud poured from the southern edge of a 1,000-foot-tall lava dome in the volcano's crater. Steam frequently rises from a lava dome in the crater of the volcano, but it had not erupted in 18 years.
For the past week, scientists have detected thousands of earthquakes of increasing strength _ as high as magnitude 3.3 _ at a mountain best known for its 1980 eruption. The eruption killed 57 people and coated towns 250 miles away with ash.