Postcards from the Past: Mount St. Helens erupts, 1980

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    Mount St. Helens erupted in spectacular fashion on May 18, 1980, a sunny Sunday morning. The northern face of the mountain collapsed, and an ash plume spewed about 15 miles high, darkening skies nearby and in Eastern Washington. By early afternoon, ash was falling in Idaho and Montana; it reached Colorado by day's end.

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    Mike Clinton, of Yakima, shoveled ash off a sidewalk in Yakima on the morning of May 20, 1980. A thick coating of volcanic ash began falling two days earlier when Mount St. Helens erupted.

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    A car kicked up a cloud of volcanic ash as it traveled a nearly deserted Chehalis street on May 27, 1980.

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    KitsapGuy
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  • I'll never forget...I was staying at my Dad's in Kent, WA...The parents were recently divorced. I was watching TV when the news came on talking about the eruption. My dad walked out on to the porch and said, "Son, take a look...You can see it!"

    Sure enough, we could see the explosion of ash plain as day.

    I will never forget that day.
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  • Man, I remember that like it was yesterday! It was Sunday, and we were up on the ball field, playing baseball on the diamond above the school in Spangle, Washington, just south of Spokane on the Palouse. I was in second grade. It started to get dark, and our first thought was how quickly the day and gone by. Then I looked at my watch. It was only about two o'clock in the afternoon, and that's when things started to get weird.

    The ash started to fall. The big chunks fell first. You could see them, like big, gray snowflakes. Someone came to the field and said we needed to get home right away, that Mount Saint Helens had blown. By the time I got home, ash was visible on the ground, like newly fallen snow. Except instead of turning the countryside white and beautiful, it turned it gray and hellish, like death had rode into town and left a trail of swirling soot and ash. About three inches fell where we were.

    We were far later to the party than you guys in Western Washington. I'd say the first signs of it started showing up just after noon, with the sky darkening. It blew in the morning, but we didn't see the effects until early afternoon, as I recall. We didn't see the explosion or the initial plume of ash; we were too far away.

    The ash was fine -- some of the finest-grained stuff possible. It was so fine it went through the air filters in cars and killed them. I remember cars lining the roads in and around Spokane afterward, as people tried to drive in it and became stranded when their engines died. The ash was so fine, it poured like water when you pushed it with a shovel. The pic above is similar to what it looked like where we were, but our ash was finer than that. The one with the car is closer to what it looked like for us. The fire department sprayed it down with a fine mist to make it more manageable and keep it from going airborne when it was moved. Couldn't spray it too much, or it became thick and heavy as hell.

    We made a big dirt bike jump from the stuff that lasted for what seemed like forever. As I recall, it was there until we moved away years later. The stuff was everywhere for years, in lawns, ditches, gardens, anywhere you looked. It had some serious potential as fertilizer, too; the gardens grew like crazy afterward. Thinking back on it every year as I do, I'm instantly transported back to when I was a kid. I remember it as vividly as anything in my life, just like it had happened yesterday.
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  • Seahawk Sailor wrote:Man, I remember that like it was yesterday! It was Sunday, and we were up on the ball field, playing baseball on the diamond above the school in Spangle, Washington, just south of Spokane on the Palouse. I was in second grade. It started to get dark, and our first thought was how quickly the day and gone by. Then I looked at my watch. It was only about two o'clock in the afternoon, and that's when things started to get weird.

    The ash started to fall. The big chunks fell first. You could see them, like big, gray snowflakes. Someone came to the field and said we needed to get home right away, that Mount Saint Helens had blown. By the time I got home, ash was visible on the ground, like newly fallen snow. Except instead of turning the countryside white and beautiful, it turned it gray and hellish, like death had rode into town and left a trail of swirling soot and ash. About three inches fell where we were.

    We were far later to the party than you guys in Western Washington. I'd say the first signs of it started showing up just after noon, with the sky darkening. It blew in the morning, but we didn't see the effects until early afternoon, as I recall. We didn't see the explosion or the initial plume of ash; we were too far away.

    The ash was fine -- some of the finest-grained stuff possible. It was so fine it went through the air filters in cars and killed them. I remember cars lining the roads in and around Spokane afterward, as people tried to drive in it and became stranded when their engines died. The ash was so fine, it poured like water when you pushed it with a shovel. The pic above is similar to what it looked like where we were, but our ash was finer than that. The one with the car is closer to what it looked like for us. The fire department sprayed it down with a fine mist to make it more manageable and keep it from going airborne when it was moved. Couldn't spray it too much, or it became thick and heavy as hell.

    We made a big dirt bike jump from the stuff that lasted for what seemed like forever. As I recall, it was there until we moved away years later. The stuff was everywhere for years, in lawns, ditches, gardens, anywhere you looked. It had some serious potential as fertilizer, too; the gardens grew like crazy afterward. Thinking back on it every year as I do, I'm instantly transported back to when I was a kid. I remember it as vividly as anything in my life, just like it had happened yesterday.

    We only got a very very fine dusting in Shoreline. ....but my grandmother owned a vacation cabin just south of Hamilton, Montana, and in August of 1980 we drove to it, and collected some ash along the road in Ritzville where we stopped for gas. The stuff was everywhere. My cousins in CDA, Idaho had a ton of ash in their yard.
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  • I took these when I was 9, what a day that was ! For some reason we went to marine drive on the oregon side, after driving around for some time we went home and put lawn chairs on the roof of my dads house and watched for hours
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  • I lived in Tri-Cities at the time and we just got a dusting because we were on the southern edge of the plume as it spread wider and wider as it went further east. You could literally drive north from Pasco or east from Richland and see it get thicker by the inch (once it had all settled and it was OK to drive in it). My parents were stranded for two weeks in Yakima at my Aunt's house where my first wife and I had been for a family dinner the night before and almost spent the night. We would've been stranded too.

    The worst thing about the whole deal is that when we got home, we found that someone had broken into our house and we had a bunch of stuff stolen. So, by the time we filled out the police report and all that, we finally got to bed around 3:00 AM and my father-in-law called at like 8:45 to tell us the mountain had blown.
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  • That stuff was so good for the vw bug air cooled engine.
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  • I remember it well too.
    I leased a place in Chattaroy Wa. North of Spokane. Had a few acres where I boarded and trained colts. I went outside early that day and was working on a new round pen. I was not listening to a radio or anything, I started to feel and taste grit in my mouth, I could see cars on the hwy from where I was working and they were kicking up dust on a paved road. It really kinda freaked me out, the sky was getting dark. I went into the house and turned on the news.
    Holy crap she blew!!
    Then all the differing reports started about how dangerous it may or may not be to breath or for your vehicles. At the time I was employed by a man that owned several restaurants in Spokane, I did maintenance and repair for him, the next few weeks were crazy, trying to get things cleaned up and back online.
    I remember it all like it was yesterday.
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  • Lived in Anaheim, CA at the time and it ashed all the way down there. Nothing insane but I remember it lining wiper blades and windows. People actually collected it to as a keepsake.
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  • I was only 3 at the time, so I don't have any real memory of the actual event, but I do rember seeing ash on side of the roads for a long time after when I was a kid. I still have a couple of jars of it at home.
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  • I was working for Eaton Corporation, Yale Life Truck Division at that time. Everything stopped in Spokane for a couple of days. Gave us time to clean up at home, roof, lawn. As far as helping gardens, mine was up when it happened and it killed it all.

    Later they had to come dig out the street drain at our corner that was filled with the ash we washed in it. lol

    At work our office in Philly had us send samples of ash to them. Hell you can still buy stuff made from the ash. We visited Mt. St. Helens 2 summers ago and you can get a lot closer now than at first. It smelled of sulfer and ash for years around our place and the same summer we took our trailer to Kelso and the entire back of it was covered with ash after driving I-90 past Moses Lake. That happened for several years gradually going away. In many places along I-90 you can still see ash and the secondary roads even more so. Don't ever want to go through that again.

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  • The week prior to that fateful Sunday, I was one of a dozen camp counselors as a SR in high school. They took most of the kids that could go in the 6th grade to a camp called Camp Wooten over near Pomeroy. We got back on Friday and I still had a ton of homework that I should have done at camp. But helping the kids was primary and then a little fun and then homework. I was working on it Saturday and on Sunday. Mom and pop and gparents were over working doing custom work for a local farmer. They said dont call unless it is an emergency. THe words came across the screen at about 830 am. I waited about half an hour and called. Approximately 11 am the sky got dark. I looked up and saw clouds that looked upsidedown. We got ashed on a lot. At noon complete darkness. I never went back to school except to clean out my locker, turn in my books, and graduate with honors. We tried to recover the alfalfa hay we had down buy airing it thru an old bailer that we took the knotting unit off. They make that airator now...my grandpa and dad made probably the first one. I have an icecream nut sprinkles container full of ash from then. It was interesting seeing it under a microscope. All the crystaline shapes. And then I watched Jimmy Superfly Snuka on tv later that day before the parents came home. :th2thumbs:
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  • We couldn't see anything from where we lived..I just remember listening to that guy on the mountain when it blew"Vancover this is it"..Anyway when we went through Yakima later we collected a trash bag of ash..Today I think there is 1 vial of it left..I'm just glad it wasn't mt rainier..I probaly wouldn't be here..
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  • I was 5 years old and we lived in the country outside of Sandpoint Idaho. I remember going out on our back porch and looking at the ash on the ground and the porch itself had about a half inch on it, and it was still coming down. My Mom, freaked out, grabbed me and carried me back inside!
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  • I hope I die before Rainier blows again. I don't want to see the aftermath.
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  • Largent80 wrote:I hope I die before Rainier blows again. I don't want to see the aftermath.

    Yeah, it'll be very ugly.
    From the white sands
    To the canyon lands
    To the redwood stands
    To the barren lands

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