Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 18 It Will 30 Years Since the Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

May 18 it will be 30 years since the Pacific Northwest heard the loud explosions that blew apart Mt. St. Helens, sending over 500 million tons of ash into the atmosphere.

The map shows the Mount Saint Helens ash distribution.

How did some of the ash manage to make it to central Oklahoma in an amount sufficient to notice?

The day Mt. St. Helens erupted I had a bad backache. If I remember right, it was a Sunday. I was soaking my aching back in a hot tub of water. I think it was between 8 and 9 in the morning. I heard a loud concussive explosive noise, and then another, 5 booms total.

I'd been camping at San Clemente State Park in California about a month before. San Clemente is due north of Camp Pendleton. I'd heard bombs booming coming from Camp Pendleton. Mt. St. Helens, blowing up, sounding very similar.

About 15 minutes later the next door neighbor waddled over and informed us that the mountain had blown. The following hours were spent watching the TV coverage. This was before the advent of cable news channels.

Only one of the following day's eruptions blew ash in my direction, in Mount Vernon, about 150 miles north of the volcano. We'd been advised to get ash masks. We only got a very light dusting, no mask needed.

I did not see the incredible covering of ash, that buried much of Eastern Washington, til months later. What a mess. It ruined crops, trashed mechanical devices, from cars to air conditioners.

The short term damage was bad, the long term effect of the ash, restoring nutrients to the soil, was a good thing, amping up the already fertile dirt in Eastern Washington. I don't know if this is what led to there being so many grape vineyards in the current day Yakima Valley and today's big wine producing industry.

Anyway, I can't believe it's been almost 30 years since that momentous day. It seems like yesterday, so fresh is it in my memory.


Steve A said...

I'm not sure it is a good thing to be reminded it has been 30 years. Any word on Harry Truman yet?

Durango Northwest said...

I'm almost certain the hunt for Harry Truman has been scaled way back. How can that memorable day be 3 decades ago!