Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where were you...

when Mount Saint Helens blew, 31 years ago on this date?  I was working on my Ph.D. at Colorado State University, and found the thinnest film of ash on my windshield days later.

My soon-to-be colleagues in eastern Washington had to contend with a more significant fallout of ash, and here's a shot of EWU geology professor Eugene Kiver's back deck the day after the eruption (click to enlarge):
Image courtesy Eugene Kiver, taken 19 May 1980 south of Spokane, Washington.

RELATED: When volcanoes erupt.


  1. Early that Sunday morning I was weeding my garden in Spokane when I heard a booming noise in the distance. About a half hour later, I heard another one. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, I was fishing at West Medical Lake when a very dark cloud headed our way. It became like night time and when we turned on the headlights of the car, we could see some kind of "snow" falling. Since no one had heard the news yet, we headed back to Spokane on the freeway in our 1954 Chrysler New Yorker with the oil bath air filter, following the guardrails since we couldn't see past the front of the hood. (Yes in hindsight, very dangerous.) Around 7 PM, the sky lightened up briefly and shortly got dark again as the sun set. The next morning was eerily silent as a blanket of ash (like snow) lay on the ground acting as a sound buffer. Ash continued to fall for a few days giving the air & ground a bleak grayness. No one knew if it was harmful to be breathing the air so everyone stayed inside. Employers & schools told everyone to stay home & there was caution that the abrasive ash would ruin engines so people weren't out driving. Monday was the most quiet day I have ever experienced in the city. By Tuesday, the natives were restless and ventured out to the only business that was open - the grocery store. Free paper breathing masks were being distributed. It was like the social event of the season; everyone lingered and all had stories to tell. Then the cleanup began - plowing away the ash & washing off sidewalks and cars as life slowly returned to "normal".

  2. Candy: Thanks for taking the time and sharing your personal experience.

  3. Candy, you are just awesome to share this. I was in New Hampshire at the time - far away, but an interested geology student! Jenny