Mount St. Helens Erupts, May, 1980. Recollections

Discussion in 'Other Reminiscences' started by Yvonne Smith, Mar 14, 2016.

  1. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    We were living in Spokane on May 18, 1980, when Mount St. Helens finally erupted. They had been saying that it was going to do so for some time, and had evacuated almost everyone out of there except the fellow (forgot his name) who lived by Spirit lake, and refused to leave.
    Even so, there were some campers who had gone up there that day, and some lives were lost when it erupted.

    In Spokane, it was a nice spring day, almost summer, and we were all outside in the yard. The kids were playing, I was working in the garden, and my ex was probably in his usual place, the garage, doing something with the car.
    About mid-afternoon, we noticed that the sky in the west was starting to get dark, and it looked like a massive storm was rolling in.

    As it came closer, we noticed that the birds had stopped chirping and none were even flying around. The sky kept getting darker and darker, and I was starting to worry if we were going to have a tornado, something virtually unheard of out there, for the most part.
    We decided that it would be prudent to go and tune in the weather report and see what was headed our way, and quickly learned that it was the ash from the Mount St. Helens eruption.

    Probably about 4 that afternoon, it was almost totally dark outside, and what looked like grayish snow was drifting down. It was almost surreal.
    Except for a few cars, the streets were deserted, and no one was driving much unless it was necessary.
    By the next morning, we had a thin layer of ash all over everything, and the news reported that almost all businessess would be closed, school was cancelled.

    For the next several days, things were pretty quiet around the city; but we were much luckier than some places in central Washington, which had received several inches of ash fallout.
    It actually took a few years for the ash to absorb into the ground, and then it really acted as kind of a fertilizer to the dirt, and we had some of the best huckleberry crops that had been seen in many years after that.
     
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  2. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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    His name was Harry Truman, if I remember right.
     
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  3. Ruby Begonia

    Ruby Begonia Veteran Member
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    Yes, it was Harry Truman. I remember.
     
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  4. Ruby Begonia

    Ruby Begonia Veteran Member
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    @Yvonne Smith , did you have the ashes in your house, did you have to breathe it?
     
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  5. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    The ash was really heavy, @Ruby Begonia , so even though it was small particles, it settled fairly fast. They did suggest that people stay inside if possible, and that they should wear those little face masks if they did go out.
    We didn't have any problem inside the house; and it settled fairly quickly outside, too, but the wind would blow it around until it got mixed into the dirt.
    One of the worst problems was for people who drove their car in the ash when it was falling, and it got in the engines, and some people had their vehicles ruined by the ash in the engine.
    Central Washington had the worst part of it, and they had several inches on the ground, and it just stayed there for well over a year.
    Since the wind took most of the ash eastward, Western Washington actually didn't get as much as most other places, if at all. That was probably a good thing, because it would have totally shut down Seattle and Tacoma if it had blown that way.
    I read that some of the areas close to the mountain did get hot ash falling, and I think that caused some damage and started fires.
    Later, I moved to Western Washington, and lived close enough to the mountain that we would take the Jeep and go camping up there. It was amazing to see all of the dead trees just looking like matchsticks that had been blown over from the blast.
    They actually seemed like they were almost petrified due to the ash that was embedded into the tree trunks.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 14, 2016
  6. Ruby Begonia

    Ruby Begonia Veteran Member
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    My goodness @Yvonne Smith , it reminds me of Pompeii!! Thankfully it all settled quickly. You know, I remember seeing photos of all those dead trees you described....utter desolation.
     
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  7. Frank Sanoica

    Frank Sanoica Veteran Member
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    @Yvonne Smith : Most amazing reiteration of that event! We were then in Phoenix, and of course heard of it, but I could never picture in my mind what it was like to be up there, close to it. Some estimates I read of stated cubic miles of material had been erupted. Thank you for this! GFrank
     
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  8. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    Here is just an amazing video that shows exactly what happened when the mountain erupted, and the cataclysmic changes that occurred in such a short amount of time.
    This also explains how the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the changes in Spirit lake, and around the whole area surrounding the mountain help us to understand more about the Grand Canyon, and how it may have been made.
    There are underwater pictures from Spirit Lake showing how the sediment layers form there and how coal can develop from this same process.
    Understanding what happened from this eruption , and the subsequent mud flows caused from the eruption, makes it a lot easier to understand some of what our earth went through in the past.

     
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  9. Ike Willis

    Ike Willis Very Well-Known Member
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    The Sunday Mt. St. Helens erupted, I was staying in Missoula, Montana. The street lights came on and it looked like the thickest fog ever outside. People were told to stay inside and off the roads.
     
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  10. Yvonne Smith

    Yvonne Smith Greeter
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    Here is an actual picture that I found and you can see that the ash looks almost like a light snowfall on the ground.
    Some people wore masks to keep from breathing the ash for the first week or so, and then most of us just got used to it. It was probably around a year or more before it either blew away or worked itself into the ground.
    One of the most interesting things was how the volcanic ash turned out when used in ceramics. They made some really beautiful pieces from the ash.
    This picture was taken in Post Falls, Idaho, a small town just east of Spokane, Washington, where we lived at the time the volcano erupted.
    image.jpeg
     
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    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
  11. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Well-Known Member
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    @Yvonne Smith I hope it is alright to revive this old thread since you mentioned your St Helen's experience in my introduction post. I found my ash this morning and thought you might enjoy seeing it. It is interesting that the Spokane ash is darker than the Ritzville. I also remember the closer we got to Tri Cities, a few days later when snowplows were attempting to push ash off the highway, that the ash seemed finer and lighter. The van we were all traveling in was burning oil time we hit Tri Cities. Even with super make shift air filters enough was getting in to destroy the engine piston rings and cylinders. Last I heard my friend now deceased left that old van to her daughter and she took off the wheels and uses it for a gardening shed. I guess this would be considered a she shed today ha ha. That was a girl's road trip to never be forgotten.
    New Image.jpg
     
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  12. Bess Barber

    Bess Barber Very Well-Known Member
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    @Faye Fox What nice memorabilia to have! I don't think I could wrap my head around living near a volcano. Or earthquake. I would be scared all the time. (Says the girl who had a hurricane blow by today. :D) I guess it all boils down to what we are used to.
     
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  13. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Well-Known Member
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    @Bess Barber At the time St Helens blew I was living 400 miles southeast of Spokane and Spokane is about 380 miles east and a bit north of St Helens. I was in Spokane on an arts tour.. The wind currents were east so Spokane really got hit with the ash. Where I lived had maybe 10 mm or so. I now live near the Pacific ring of fire that is long overdue for mass destruction and nearer St Helens that keeps on belching. I want to move, but where? Flooding or earthquakes or tornadoes or hurricanes or super cold or something scary anywhere I would want to live. Friends want me to move to Florida, but the snakes and alligators and scorpions scare me to coronary arrest. Bears, wolves, and mountain lions don't bother me but I have spent all my adult life in the mountains, forest, and beaches of the west. A friend in Hawaii wants me to move there, besides being way out of my financial grasp, the photos she sent of a lava flow 1/2 mile from her house was a bit upsetting.
     
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  14. Micki Pembroke

    Micki Pembroke Very Well-Known Member
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    Can't imagine how petrified people must have been, have not experienced that, and hope to never to do so, lava torching everything in it's path, and to see and watch it coming so close, melting, burning all in it's way. Our world's wonders and destruction never ends....Scary to say the least.
     
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  15. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
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