Where were you in 1980?
Thirty years ago today, one of the most significant geologic events of the 20th century took place here in Washington.
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted. In a big way.
The largest terrestrial landslide in recorded history knocked 1,300 feet off the summit and triggered a lateral blast. Within 3 minutes, that lateral blast, traveling at more than 300 miles per hour, had scorched more than 200 square miles of forest. Within 15 minutes, a vertical plume of volcanic ash reached 80,000 feet into the sky.
That’s three facts. You can read 27 more facts about Mount St. Helens here: http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/MSH/30Years/framework.html.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was established in 1982 to preserve a landscape changed forever by the raw power of the earth. Today, a visit to the Monument confirms the remarkable ability of plants and animals to recover from such dramatic events. It is a place for people to witness change and be changed, too. Take part in one of WTA’s work parties on the Loowit Trail this summer and you’ll get a whole new perspective on the mountain.
- Did you climb the mountain before it erupted?
- Where were you on May 18, 1980?
- Do you have plans to visit the mountain this summer?
Share your St. Helens story with us.
Where were you on May 18, 1980?
We had ash all the way up in Arlington, WA
tsherr on May 18, 2010 10:15 AM
Mt St Helens (1978, 1980)
On May 17, 1980, I went on an overnight trip up past Bluff Lake (Trail #65) to a point high on a ridge NW of Coal Creek Mountain. I could not see St Helens from my snowcamp, but on May 18, I climbed about 100ft up the ridge and took a picture of the mountain at about 7:30am in the morning sun. After breakfast, I had a providential urge to hike out, rather than take a morning hike farther along the ridge to the southeast.
During the hike out, it started getting darker and I could hear thunder - very strange for a sunny morning. The trail is in the forest most of the way out so there are not many clear views. I started seeing flashes of pink lightning and hearing "hail" falling through the trees. By the time I reached my car, it was more like twilight, but I was able to see that the "hail" was actually 1/2 inch shards of obsidian. Now I knew that St Helens had erupted. After a short while, the obsidian "hail" changed to gray ash "snow" and the view of Mt Rainier to the north disappeared into the darkness created by the ash cloud.
It was a slow and carefull drive down the logging road in the dark to Hwy 12 and then on to Seattle.
Rolan on May 18, 2010 12:19 PM
5/18/80, 8 AM, Sh-Shi Beach
A first, I thought, "Thunder?" No, clear blue sky. "Naval practice gunfire," I concluded, recalling an obscure note about a naval gunnery range on one of the offshore islets and a piece of spent ordnance I'd found once inside a sea cave.
I heard of someone on Whidbey who saw the ash cloud and thought, "They've bombed Seattle!"
Two weeks earlier, foiled in an reach to reach Mt. Adams, we went looking for St. Helens in the maze of new logging roads that were not on my map. Suddenly, we saw a jet of black ash and steam shoot vertically, hundreds of feet, and begin turning white as it drifted northwards on the wind and the ash and rock fell out of it. This repeated at 55 minute intervals, like a regular geyser; we watched 3 such jets. Still not sure exactly where we were, but we'd have been in trouble if we'd been there 2 weeks later. It was a strangely profound sight.
As a boy, I'd gone through the usual volcano fascination period -- in Minnesota, about as far from a mountain as you can get -- but I'd never dreamed I'd ever actually see one erupting.
Cascade Liberation Organization on May 19, 2010 04:58 PM
Mount St. Helens 1967, 1980
On May 18, 1980, I still was living in the Tri-Cities (Richland) and, during Sunday brunch noted the gray mamelian clouds blowing in from the west. I did not immediately recognize them as volcanic, but a neighbor soon reported hearing on the radio that St Helens was having a major eruption. Over the next couple of hours, the sky became increasingly darker and eventually, by noon, it was as black as midnight. In spite of the threatening appearance, the ash from the eruption had risen so high into the atmosphere that almost none came down in the Tri-Cities. We had only a light dusting, an amount similar to what we often found after a local dust storm. Folks many miles to the east and north did not fare as well, and experienced much greater amounts of ash fall.
Quantum Guru on May 20, 2010 10:25 AM
Post & prior Mt. St. Helens
Roobug on May 20, 2010 07:06 PM