May 18, 2010
Thirty Years Ago, Mt. St. Helens Blew Up
Or blew out, to be
more exact, since the explosion did not go straight up.
I had planned to have a new collection of pictures from the newer, higher resolution
web camera, but found that I do not
have a wide variety of pictures from that camera, though I have several quite pretty
pictures. So I am recycling this lower-resolution set from last year.
(Click on a picture to see the full-sized version.)
And I will remind you again that the web cameras do not show you the
Crater Glacier, which has been
growing rapidly. (If you work for Washington state, remember to call it the Tulutson
The best overall description of the eruption I have seen is in the 3rd edition of Stephen Harris's
Fire Mountains of the West.
His chapter on Mt. St. Helens includes details like this:
The May 18 eruption released a staggering amount of energy — a force equivalent to
27,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs detonating sequentially over a span of nine and a half
hours — but St. Helens still had a reserve of magmatic power. During the next five
months, the volcano produced five additional explosive eruptions, each of which ejected ash clouds
35,000 to 50,000 feet above sea level and discharged pyroclastic flows though a wide breech in
the crater's north rim. (p. 271)
The plants and animals near the mountain have been recovering — and teaching biologists
much about ecology as they come back. The best article I have seen on the recovery is in
the May issue of the National Geographic.
I've climbed it twice since the eruption. It isn't a difficult climb in the summer.
In fact, it's like hiking on a tilted beach. The view from the rim is spectacular — and
spooky, if you have any imagination at all. (You can find the current rules for climbers
More official info here and
Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.
Posted by Jim Miller at May 18, 2010
06:43 AM | Email This
We toured the Toutle River approach three months after the big blast. Along the highway the trees had gray ash caked on them; at some places up to ten feet above the ground.
Seeing personal property damage was sad. Low by the river there were a few houses that were strong and survived, but were filled to three or more feet with mud and rocks. Then there were houses/cabins smashed probably beyond repair. Then there were properties marked with rope and a sign "Our cabin was washed away. Please respect our property."
The formation of landscape was fascinating. Step Canyon was cut through 100 feet of rock and looks as old as on any. But we know it was formed in months. Scientists who had access to the scene saw it happen.
2. I flew my airplane around Mt.St. Helens when it was spewing ash and hot air before the final blast. It was at that time, a no-fly zone even, before the final blast. However, I spotted a news helicopter at the rim and another fix-wing in the area. The Phony no-fly zone was much later lifted after so many violations by those who knew they had the inherent right to freely fly in our American airspace. After the Blast, it was very interesting to witness the tremendous destruction and change of landscape. But, Government being Dumb as ever, wouldn't allow the timber companies to remove the downed trees and plant new trees in their place. It that were allowed, you would now have a half grown forest reclaiming the land. As it is now, it is still a mostly barren landscape. Thank you, Big Dumb Government!
3. The ash fell all over Eastern Washington. It also covered Grays Harbor where my in-laws live. Hard to believe it has been 30-years.
My mom went racing out the back door and started yelling at my dad to stop shooting his guns behind the barn as it was waking up my younger brother (I was 2, he was almost 1). Dad came walking out of the garage not having any idea what she was talking about. This was 250 miles north, just north of Lynden.
The blast was *that* loud.
5. I remember having to shovel a lot of ash around the house, clean the gutters of ash, etc. It was just one of those chores Dad had us doing.
6. I remember the big boom when the mountain finally exploded. We could hear it in Seattle. Not surprised it could be heard as far north as Lynden.
The ash fallout in Eastern Washington ruined bird nesting; decimated chukkar hunting in the Whiskey Dick area near Kittitas.
In Yakima, they were building a sewage plant at the time and the ash caused major damage. Contractor was a change order artist so you can imagine the change orders that came out of that. Acts of nature in most contracts are reasons for change orders.
8. I was out mowing the lawn at 9 years old with a walkman on when I got the news report that St. Helens had blown. It was such a nice crisp morning that Sunday in Montana. I remember being amazed that school was cancelled the following 2 days because of the ash accumulation from a mountain erupting over 600 miles away from where I was.
I had ridden the Lofall-South Point ferry earlier (from my home in Poulsbo) to work on the 20 acres of farmland my wife and I had purchased in Chimacum. You might recall the ferry was a temporary replacement for the Hood Canal Bridge, the western half of which had sunk in a Feb. '79 hurricane.
I heard nothing in Chimacum when Mt. St. Helens blew. I could have been on the tractor or driving down the road, but I did not hear or feel anything. I found out about the eruption when I returned home to celebrate my wife's 26th birthday.
10. We were living at Potholes State Park at the time.We heard the blast around 8:30 in the morning and by noon It was totaly black out side.My husband, a park ranger, had the task of helping the campers and day users get thourgh the next week. The roads were closed and when we left it was in a caravan following the St. Patrol.
Our Park Ranger stayed beind to clean up the park, using snow plows to move the ash. Then fix the pump for the well and all the vehicles. The rest of taht summer our old jeep wagon left piles of ash in every packing lot we stopped in. It was also the only car that keep running during the ash fall out.