On May 18th, 1980, thirty years ago today, at 8:32 a.m., the ground shook beneath Mount St. Helens in Washington state as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck, setting off one of the largest landslides in recorded history – the entire north slope of the volcano slid away. As the land moved, it exposed the superheated core of the volcano setting off gigantic explosions and eruptions of steam, ash and rock debris. The blast was heard hundreds of miles away, the pressure wave flattened entire forests, the heat melted glaciers and set off destructive mudflows, and 57 people lost their lives. The erupting ash column shot up 80,000 feet into the atmosphere for over 10 hours, depositing ash across Eastern Washington and 10 other states.
Kathryn and I were living in Eugene, OR at the time and it was a Sunday morning. I was awake and reading in the living room while Kathryn was sleeping in. The blast shook the windows in our house and got Kathryn awake. She came out and asked what the noise was. Not knowing, I told her it sounded like a quarry blast, but I didn’t know there were any quarries around and who blasts on Sunday morning.
About 9am we heard the news.
The next day I drove to Portland for a computer training class and saw the reddest, most spectacular sunrise.
Some outstanding pictures of Mt Saint Helen are here.