Man, can that ash hole blow!
May 19, 2005 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday marked the 25 anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. NewsDesigner posted a great wrap-up of the front pages of major papers on that very day. Poking around the USGS site, I found a shot of Mt. St. Helens from the day before the blast, and a couple days after. The fallout was extensive and the images unforgettable.
posted by mathowie (29 comments total)
Interesting, I watched a special about Krakatoa last night. The images were shocking. Anytime we think we've got a handle on the earth, take a look at some volcano footage and you realize very quickly just how utterly insignificant we are on this big old rock.
posted by fenriq at 10:35 AM on May 19, 2005

I still have some ash that my grandfather sent me; he scraped it off the porch of his home in Portland.
posted by Specklet at 10:37 AM on May 19, 2005

It's easy to forget it used to be just another mountain.
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on May 19, 2005

Living south of Seattle when it went off, I thought of this yesterday when I realized it was May 18th. I remember the radio stations playing "I don't know where I'ma gonna go when the volcano blows" over and over again.

Went there for a visit about a year ago. It's gorgeous, and terrifying when you're that close. You realize just how enormous the scale of the eruption was.
posted by papercake at 10:53 AM on May 19, 2005

My family and I were camping when the mountain blew. We were far enough away that we slept through the sound and vibrations of the blast, but when we woke we found everything covered in about an inch of ash. I can't remember how far away from the Mountain we were, but we were not close at all. It was very disorienting and exciting for a six year old. We still have some of that ash at my parents home. I think this NPR coverage is nice, too.

It may have been mentioned elsewhere on mefi* but it was the anniversary of Ian Curtis' death yesterday, as well.
posted by safetyfork at 10:56 AM on May 19, 2005

Ian's 25th as well, I meant to say.
posted by safetyfork at 10:59 AM on May 19, 2005

We lived in Spokane, WA then, over 300 miles away. The wind from Mt. St. Helens was blowing NNE that day and I will never forget watching the cobalt-blue color of the sky on that beautiful May day turn half-black, then completely black as the ash cloud descended on us. Spokane accumulated 4 inches of ash, which got into everything, including car engines, flowers, trees and lungs. It hung in the air for days, casting a sickly gray pall over everything, but you could feel the heat of the sun on top of it. It fell like snow, but didn't melt, and we shoveled into piles, washed down our trees and flowers and porches and windows, etc. Everyone wore those painters' masks for a while, which became impossible to find. And to top it all off, I was pregnant with our daughter at the time, and Mt. St. Helens had several eruptions that summer, making me very nervous every time it went off after that ("I swear, I'm going into labor right now!"). There were a lot of babies named Ashley that year! ;-)
posted by Lynsey at 11:00 AM on May 19, 2005

safetyfork, I was also camping with my family when it blew, in the Skagit Valley in BC. We didn't get any ash, but we were all woken up by the sound of the explosion. Which, for an 8-year-old, is pretty much the awesomest way to be woken up on the day after your birthday.
posted by jeffj at 11:23 AM on May 19, 2005

I was born in July of 80, and grew up in Olympia WA - my dad had a friend that was an arial photographer and happened to be up in the area during the eruption - so there are these amazing arial color photos of St. Helens blowing it's top and the ash plume and whatnot mixed in with the regular stuff you'd expect to find in my baby book. Never really thought about how odd that is until recently.
posted by stenseng at 11:29 AM on May 19, 2005

Anyone notice that in the ash fallout map, Oklahoma randomly got a sprinkling? What's up with that?
posted by Asparagirl at 11:57 AM on May 19, 2005

I lived in Auburn, WA about halfway between Tacoma and Seattle. Amazingly enough we hardly got anything, but I remember the ash got into everything, including ruining the white paint on my car which was pitted with ash afterwards.
I remember one of the later eruptions happened when I was outside a store in town and a friend and I looked south and the ash plume rose up like a mushroom cloud after an atomic blast. It was down near the Oregon border, but the size of it made it look like it was in the next town over. I think it rose to 30,000 feet or higher that day. . .
posted by mk1gti at 12:07 PM on May 19, 2005

my wife's grandmother was living on lake coeur d'lene in idaho. they got a lot more than the 5 inches shown on the fallout map. she has photos that look like a heavy grey snowfall. it took years for them to get rid of it.
posted by three blind mice at 12:22 PM on May 19, 2005

I was on a ridgetop near Elk City, Idaho, planting trees on a Clearwater National Forest clearcut with my Hoedad crew that morning. By noon, half the sky had turned a scary greenish-black. As we drove down the mountain to our camp, the ash started to fall. We were on the edge of the ashfall zone; some of our crews to the north had a couple of inches of it. It was a memorable day, even 200 miles east of the mountain.
posted by wadefranklin at 12:32 PM on May 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Anyone notice that in the ash fallout map, Oklahoma randomly got a sprinkling? What's up with that?

The Okies just can't escape the dust bowl days.

This is a really interesting thread. These personal recollections are great. I, too, still have some Mount St. Helens ash my Grandpa gave me. Twenty-Five Years... man!

I was in Dallas, Texas at the time of the actual eruption, but in 1991 My family and I went on a trip to Washington & Oregon and we drove up to see Mt. Saint Helens. I agree with papercake: seeing the sheer scale of the devastation up close, even after eleven years had gone by, was mind-boggling. In the visitor's center was a display about how the flora & fauna returning to the area had all kinds of interesting mutations: for instance, the male frogs now had external genitalia. Why? Why, Mother Nature, Why?

The next day my family and I were in our hotel room in Seattle where we flipped on the TV to discover that The Soviet Union was no more: graffiti and sledgehammers and dancing on the Berlin Wall.

Mt. St. Helens, Mutated Frogs and The Collapse of The Soviet Union... it was a pretty memorable trip.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:39 PM on May 19, 2005

Oklahoma randomly got a sprinkling? What's up with that?

Oklahoma sucks?
posted by badger_flammable at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2005

More releated pictures here. (self link warning, flog if need be)
posted by alana at 12:49 PM on May 19, 2005

When I was a kid, I remember reading the issue of National Geographic that had the story about the St. Helens eruption...amazing photos throughout, but the ones that stuck with me were taken by this old coot who lived a few miles from the mountain and refused to leave. He pointed a camera towards St. Helens and took a bunch of pictures until he was the last one, the ash is pouring down around him. Absolutely chilling. Wish I could find them online.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:55 PM on May 19, 2005

posted by The Card Cheat at 1:20 PM on May 19, 2005

St. Helen's blows and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. [yes, my actual 1st grade photo].

Luckily for me now, I can see both the mountain and the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory offices from my house, so when Hood or Rainier or St. Helen's go, I can see which way the vulcanologists are running and go the opposite way...[self links]
posted by karmaville at 1:37 PM on May 19, 2005

Satellite image 36 minutes after the eruption.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:03 PM on May 19, 2005

There's no way Harry Truman took any pictures during the eruption, nor was there anything recovered of him or his lodge. I believe you are combining stories The Card Cheat.
posted by Eekacat at 4:06 PM on May 19, 2005

Oddly enough, I still vaguely remember a dark humor joke on Saturday Night Live a week or two before the event. Perhaps it was Jane Curtin on Weekend Update alluding to the impending eruption and adding, "So we'd like to say goodbye to all of you watching on our Seattle affiliate ..."

fandango_matt that's how I remember it as well. Two separate stories - the older man who refused to evacuate, and the dead photographer whose film was recovered and printed in National Geo. I get a chill thinking about those pics. There's something so eerie about seeing images of the final moments of someone's life. And to know that he knew he was about to die, yet he kept on clicking the shutter.

BTW as I follow various links, I see the name of a local news photog named Reid Blackburn who perished. But I can't find reference to his images being recovered and published.
posted by NorthernLite at 4:11 PM on May 19, 2005

Of course you all realize that the "old coot" Harry Truman was not the President from Missouri who died in 1972. At the time of the eruption, there were actually some folks who confused the two!
We were in Portland at the time and put "ash filters" on the cars' air intakes. Our neighborhood, which sometimes organized a group picnic in a cul de sac, had a community ash wash with garden hoses and loaners from the Fire Department.
MY husband got a very leaky old fire hose which we took to clean up the freshly poured parking lot of a nearby church.
Mount Saint Helens is currently quite active building a new dome. At least I hope that is all that is happening.
posted by Cranberry at 4:36 PM on May 19, 2005

alan, those photos are wicked cool.
posted by smackfu at 8:33 PM on May 19, 2005

I was six when St. Helens blew. In southwest Montana we got quite a bit of ash. I remember having to wear a handkerchief over my mouth when we went outside. It looked like grey snow.

Last summer I flew into Vancouver. On the return flight, I realized that I could see the volcano chain running right down the coast as we flew over. Mts. Baker, Rainier, Hood, St. Helens... I swear I could see these massive volcanic cones all the way to California. The sheer size of these things never really hit me until that day. The mountains, tall as they were, dwarfed by these huge volcanic cones rising up amidst them all.

I'll tell you one thing: When Mt. Ranier goes off, Seattle is pretty much fucked.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:33 AM on May 20, 2005

While I was almost negative three years old when St. Helens blew, I was born to two geologists from the Seattle area, so growing up I remember hearing about it all the time. I think my dad, at least, still slightly regrets living in Colorado, not Washington, at the time... that kind of a thing is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Mount Saint Helens is currently quite active building a new dome. At least I hope that is all that is happening.

The current activity at St. Helens is pretty different from the activity leading up to the 1980 eruption - it is blowing off steam every so often, releasing built-up pressure. It's when the volcano is rumbling but ISN'T releasing any steam that things get bad. Also, if St. Helens were to blow big-time today, it probably wouldn't be nearly as big as the 1980 eruption, because there's a lot less mountain.

When Mt. Ranier goes off, Seattle is pretty much fucked.

More Tacoma than Seattle... the entire valley that contains Puyallup, Kent, Auburn, and all those suburbs is built on centuries-old (which, geologically speaking, is really extremely young) lahar flows. Depending on which side of the mountain blows, and where the lahars go, Seattle proper could fare just fine. (Of course, "fine" is a relative term when half a million people in the suburbs are dead or homeless.)

I choose to just not think about it too much. If that's how I'm going to go, in a massive volcanic eruption that kills a million people, well, that's how I'm going to go. The remote threat of a massive geologic event isn't enough to make me leave this beautiful city.

caution live frogs: check out the Wikipedia entry on the Cascade volcanoes. It really is a magnificent range of mountains.
posted by salad spork at 10:26 AM on May 20, 2005

One more link: Learning to Live with Volcanic Risk.
posted by salad spork at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2005

With some friends last night we were discussing which would come first, Rainer going off or the Tsunami people say the NW is due for. We were at a bar without access to the Google oracle for comparison of the available data. And, part of me doesn't want to know.

Tacoma... ... the entire valley that contains Puyallup, Kent, Auburn, and all those suburbs... -- home sweet home.
posted by safetyfork at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2005

It didn't look anybody linked to the web cam, so here it is
posted by Meaney at 12:31 PM on May 20, 2005

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