30 Years Ago Today - Mt. St. Helens


In the pocket of rural King County where I grew up, we were in an "ash shadow" and got no more than a dusting. I vividly remember visiting my grandmother, though, in Centralia and being amazed at the ash berms lined up on the streets. I guess they'd called in snowplows.

Amazing. My heart always goes out to the family of David Johnston, the geologist who died on this day 30 years ago.
Don't miss the slide show! There is one of a fellow sweeping the sidewalk wearing only a facemask, tiny gym shorts, and roller skates. I want to make a poster out of it.

A year or two after the blast, I was at Princeton and my housemate from Portland transported hundreds of packages of Mt. St. Helens ash in plastic bags with the idea of capitalizing on the disaster and selling them.

Needless to say, that year our basement was filled with many packages of unsold ash.
I remember the ash dusting out here in Denver. I didn't know it could travel that far.
I was born shortly after the actual blast, but I grew up obsessed with it-- every kid is fascinated by natural disasters, but it's even cooler when they're in your backyard. I remember playing in my great-grandmother's backyard in Moses Lake and digging down to the ash layer-- it was everywhere.
I was in second grade in Livingston Montana and we had a very light layer of ash around town, though the wind blew most of it away.
Mt. St. helens actually had two major eruptions in 1980: May 18th and May 25th. Both were Sundays. We lived in Chehalis at the time. On the way to church on the 18th, we stopped and took pictures of the volcano from the side of I-5. The following Sunday, we got a call at what seemed the middle of the night. But no, it was 7 in the morning, and it was pitch dark outside. We ended up with 3-4 inches of ash that day. The best part was we didn't have to go to church that day. The ash stuck around for years where it hadn't been disturbed.
I would highly recommend climbing Mt. St. Helens for anyone who's into that. It was one of my favorite day hikes I've ever done. You sort of intellectually know what happened in the eruption, and then you get to the crater rim and you're like "the whole north side of the mountain is gone!" It's crazy... literally awe-inspiring.
Phil Plait has a write-up and some great links here: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badast…
I was going to school in Ellensburg when the first eruption took place. Campus was shut down for nearly a week, and on that first morning the sky turned the blackest I've ever seen during daylight. The ash fall was a very fine particulate; like a soft, dry snow, that fell for hours and hours. When it finally stopped, the campus, in fact the entire town looked like it had been scooped up off the earth and deposited on the moon.

I distinctly remember one guy running our of our dorm early on, about 9:00 a.m. (Barto Hall, for you Wildcat Alums) and shaking a small tree on the front lawn; he literally disappeared for about two seconds, completely enveloped by a column of descending ash.

And @7, as luck would have it I also got hit by the ash cloud from the second eruption, as I was at my mom's house in Longview at the time. IIRC, there was also a third, much smaller eruption a couple of weeks later or thereabouts, that once again hit Central & Eastern WA, and of course I was back in E-burg for that one as well. For a while I couldn't help but think I was some sort of "volcanic ash magnet", because it seemed like, no matter where I was, the ash clouds would always find me.

You can still see evidence of the extent of the ash and silt that ran down the Toutle and Cowlitz rivers as you drive south on I-5 today. Those big berms along the west side of the freeway as you pass through Castle Rock & Longview/Kelso are all composed of detritus dredged out of the rivers post-eruption.
I used to go to Spirit Lake for boy scout camp every summer in the mid 1970s... before the mountain blew up.

It's still difficult to reconcile my memories of that beautiful lake and mountain as a boy, with the blasted moonscape that it is today. Spirit Lake still looks like a giant mud puddle filled with dead logs in a wasteland 30 years later. It breaks my heart.
I've got a bottle of ash and small pumice. I also have some large pumice pieces. My father recorded about 2-3 hours of TV News and special programs focusing on the mountain, before and after the eruption of May 18.

@8, I would love to climb the mountain. Was looking at trying that last year but never did.
gloomy gus: YES! That picture is awesome. Figure out how to buy it and let me know, wouldja? :>
#1: That was an excellent aide show. It really captured the human element that other excellent collections — like the 1981 National Geographic cover story with photos even from a photographer who shot his roll until the pyroclastic ash killed him — always tended to lack. The attention was typically on the people killed by the eruption and the power which laid waste to forests. The part I always found so amazing (and only remember it on the NBC nightly news with John Chancellor) were the scenes of people trying to slog through cities like Spokane where day became night. Again, so happy to see this slide show.

#2: In Texas, we remember how the ash eventually made its way down there and covered my parents' white car with this grey, gritty film. I remember more orangey sunsets, but they didn't seem all that impressive — only because I didn't have much in the way of typical sunsets on which to compare from my young, short memory.

#3: Next time I'm in Seattle, would anyone want to join me on a hike up Mt. St. Helens? I've never climbed it.
Today is the 30th anniversary of Mt St Helens AND Ian Curtis of Joy Division's death, so in honor of both: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC647hxil…
I was in North Idaho when it blew, day turned to night. It was permanently dusk for a couple weeks. I distinctly remember my father changing the air filter in his car every day. And to echo Comte's comment, it looked like the entire area had been relocated onto the surface of moon.
Lived in suburban Seattle, we got lightly dusted. Wait, that doesn't sound right.
I lived in south Everett, and we never saw a flake of ash where I was. I'd been in Ocean Shores that weekend, and thought we were having an earthquake; the ground shook, there was a huge BOOM. Driving home was awful, a dead crawl all the way. We didn't know the mountain had blown and they'd routed all the I-5 traffic via 101 because of ashfall in Centralia/Chehalis. We just thought the traffic was worse than usual.
@8 - so jealous! I tried that a couple of years ago, but turned around just shy of the rim due to bad weather. As you know, you climb from the south, so I didn't even get to see the north side at all (it was a brief detour from a mostly-Oregon vacation).
@2 @13 it's not high res enough to print from this, but certainly use it as a desktop background!