Mt. St. Helens Day

Eruption of St. Helens

Today is the 27th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.

For those few people in the direct path of the collapsing mountain, it was a disastrous, unimaginably gigantic mudslide that filled riverbeds and caused lakes to slosh up over their banks like bathwater.

For many more people it was a great big cloud of dust. Here in Seattle, the eruption didn’t have much direct effect, but in Spokane, where I was living in 1980, it was a surreal experience. Ashcloud RichlandI was a kid at the time, and was out in the back yard when I noticed a really strange storm cloud. It was like a line of darkness that stretched from one side of the horizon to the other and was slowly sliding closed over the entire sky.

Then the ash started to fall like snow, and it snowed dust and ash for hours, blocking out the sun and coating everything with a thin layer of gray crud that made the world look like a moonscape.

Spokane is 300 miles/480 km from Mt. St. Helens. Towns closer to the mountain, like Moses Lake, in central Washington, were covered in an ankle-deep layer of ash that you could still see years later, first everywhere, then in gullies and steambeds, and finally in isolated pockets and gray layers under the new soil.

I visited Mt. St. Helens many years after the eruption, and the landscape below the treeline there looked like a tastefully designed garden, with flowering bushes and shrubs, bleached logs scattered over the rocky ground, boulders artfully placed here and there, and no large trees of any kind for miles and miles.

The mountain has been active on and off since the eruption, sometimes sending out clouds of steam, and, for a short time in 2004, glowing red through cracks in its surface. To see what it’s up to at the moment, visit the VolcanoCam.

Eruption photo: Austin Post

Ash cloud photo: Associated Press

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~ by lolarusa on May 18, 2007.

5 Responses to “Mt. St. Helens Day”

  1. I really wish i was alive during the eruption

  2. I happened to be visiting Spokane, Wa, when Mt. St.Helens erupted. It was a surreal experience for me too. The day before was the joyous Lilac Festival and the very next day all became hell as the sky completely darkened at noon! As an agnostic youngster, I felt anxious and depressed. The idea that I had paid a visit to the synagogue the day before comforted me somehow. If there was God, I had tried my best just before the Doomsday and I could be saved. The whole catastrophe was very sad. I still rememeber the body of the poor boy in his father’s pickup. I mourned old Harry Truman and his animals and all tha other dead, including the brave journalist of the National Geographic.

    I still have the glass ring made of the volcanic ashes…

  3. Hei K. Outinen,

    Thanks for this vivid description of your memories of the eruption. It’s the kind of thing that a person never forgets, isn’t it?

  4. My husband and I were visiting friends living in Sponkane, WA when Mr. Saint Helens erupted. We first heard about it on the news. We all pitched in really fast and covered all the vehicles that could not be placed in their garage and covered all the windows and doors with plastic, hopeing to keep some of the dust out. It was such an eery feeling watching that big cloud come in. It felt like we were suddenly on another planet. I remember all the ash that covered everything. All light gray and so fine like silt. We still have a gallon of ash we brought back from our friends yard. We live in Springfield, MO and a few days later you could even see the effects of the eruption in Springfield. Not as dramatic of course, but you could see the haze in the sky. It did produce beautiful sunsets during that time. A memory I will never forget. Does anyone know how far up the ash went. In the news today 5/7/08 said the eruption in the country of Chile went up 20 miles. I was trying to compare. If someone would e-mail me the info I would appriciate it. Thanks

  5. According to a web site I found, the cloud from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens reached 80,000 feet (about 15 miles) in 15 minutes. More statistics at http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/MSH/May18/summary_may18_eruption.html)

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