|Standing on the top edge of Mt. St. Helens, looking at Mt. Adams|
What were you doing on May 18, 1980?
Maybe you were not even born yet! That does make me feel old, so let's keep that to ourselves.
On that beautiful Sunday morning, so many years ago, I was at church with my family and friends. It was during Sunday school, so the time was early in the day.
|Rocks, rocks, rocks!|
Upon the advice of emergency officials and church leaders, everyone was sent home.
Soon, the entire sky was overtaken by the black gray heavy clouds. Not rain clouds as they appeared, but ash and smoke. Grit started to pour down. It wasn't a gentle ash, but steady and thick.
Mostly we were excited to find out what was happening. I don't remember being afraid at all, just curious. We got to skip out on church, and though we were all advised to stay inside out of the ash, we ventured out several times to check out the weather.
At that time, we didn't have immediate access to world events. No one really had computers, just radios and the basic television channels. Phones were all old fashioned and connected to a wall phone jack. Information traveled much slower.
|A view of what's left at the top of Mt. St. Helens|
My then future-husband was on his own for the weekend, as his parents were out of town. So he ended up at our house for much of that week. He was normally there, so that was nothing new.
As this was our first volcano eruption, we had no idea what we were in for. School was open as usual Monday morning. We headed to school. I remember trying to use the windshield wipers. Scrape, grit, scrape, grit. Not a good idea.
It was all excitement for the students. A volcano! Ash and grit. LOTS of ash and grit. A volcano ashfall.
The problems became evident soon enough. Students waiting for buses to stop were overwhelmed with clouds of billowing, drifting ash. We couldn't breathe! People started wearing face masks just to be able to be outside. Vehicles were being damaged by the large amounts of ash and grit being inhaled and forced through the internal engines. Others tried to begin the clean up process, only to find there was nowhere to put their mountains of ash.
|The girl with the cow shorts heading up Mt. St. Helens|
After Monday, school was cancelled for the rest of the week in order to give everyone time for cleaning away ash. I'm sure officials were scrambling to figure out what to do with the ash, checking to see how dangerous it was for breathing, and searching to find out what damage was being done to the machines that were out working through the depths of the volcano fallout.
Things slowly returned to as much normal as could be expected. Mt. St. Helens was forever changed. Much of the mountain was spread throughout Washington state and the northwest. The Yakima Valley was in the ash fallout zone, while others on the opposite side of the mountain were hit by pyroclastic flows of steam, ash, mud, melted snow, and raging rivers. Lighter ash was transferred around the world by wind. Farmers washed off or plowed under the layers of ash all over our farmlands. People collected jars and containers of ash as momentos. Creative folks figured out ways to transform the ash into artwork and jewelry. Books were written, studies conducted, interviews given, and research began.
Not everyone survived that day. But for those of us who did, we remember the day the mountain blew.
So much information has been collected, stored, and shared. You can read more about Mt. St. Helens here.
|Me and Kevin at the summit of Mt. St. Helens|
I'd love to hear what you were doing on the day the mountain blew.