NFR 40 Years: Mount St Helens

Fast Action Freddie

Having a drink in The Buff
May 18th 1980 - I was out on Park Lake with my sister in my family's 13 foot Livingston. A strangely dark cloud came over the top of the butte and kept advancing and covering the sky over the coulee. A boat of adults came up to us and told us kids we better get off the lake "we're from around here and that's a BIG storm coming in". By the time I pullled the boat way up the shore, ash was starting to fall and it was getting strangely eerily dark. I'm getting filled with anxiety "WTF is going on?" It's 1980, my first thought was ... "Russia" (Soviet Union back then). Times don't change.
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we were visiting my wifes parents in CA when this happened. we didn't think we would be able to fly home but the flights into PDX were operating just fine. we lived in Salem, OR so quite a distance south but we had a fine coating of ash on everything nonetheless. Once they opened the road in, we visited each year for quite a while to watch the changes taking place. we tagged onto a ranger led tour when he stopped at a split off tree, tapped it and then told us the Disney effects folks had made this concrete tree to preserve the color forever as the stuff around there was changing in time. lots of memories heading up there and seeing the changes over the decades including the return of the elk.

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
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St Helens had such an elegant looking cone before it blew. I enjoyed climbing it and participated in Rescue ops there. Airborne.jpg


*edit found some more pics
This pic was taken at those pressure ridges just above the center of the slope in the pic above.
Glacier Sweep.jpg
The "Dog's Head" where the Huey and the climber pics were taken is now here...

I heard the boom while climbing Castle Rock in Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth with my ex. US-97 over Blewett was closed due to poor visibility so we had to take US 2 home. My now Mrs Brian was stuck working 12 hr shifts at McChord working ECOM radio ops for a couple of weeks.

After the "Monument" opened we used to drive up every couple of years and marvel at how the scars were healing. I've also hiked to the rim and skied down a couple of times since. I still enjoy backpacking in the area.
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My wife and a friend and myself were visiting relatives in Olympia. Early in the morning, we got a call that told us I-5 was closed because Mt St Helens blew up. We headed back to Corvallis via the coastal routes. It took hours and hours and hours and hours due to the constant traffic jam. Driving over the bridge at Astoria took an hour itself.

Once we made it past Astoria, we headed toward Portland and came around a corner and could see Mt St Helens exactly in front of us. Nothing is quite as humbling to see an entire mountain with the top blown away and ash billowing out the top like a giant smoke stack. I mean we're talking a mountain that looked like a giant smoke stack! Mount Doom kind'a stuff!

None of us ever forgot that day... nor the other days that it blew up again ... one of those times we could see the ash plume from Corvallis.

Humbling site to say the least! :eek:
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1980 I was in grad school in SD CA. I remember following the news.

When we moved to WA I was surprised to see the ash layer that has been buried below drifting sand and then reexposed.

I did see the ash release later and got the silhouette of the ash cloud against dusk light as seen from here in the tricities



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We were at a 3D Archery shoot in Marysville. At first we thought it was a sonic boom, but knew this was different. One of our group had property on the S. Fork Lewis...great elk camp...still under mud!


Purveyor of fine hackle, wine & cigars!
We moved back here, from Hawaii, in 1980 after it happened. Part of the first year back here, my parents rented a house in Bellevue and across the street were horses. One had been born on May 18th and was named Ash!

My aunt and uncle in Helena, MT got hit by the ash as did Eastern WA and ID of course. They told me about it a few times when I used to go out there a lot. In 2000, I went to Hawaii (the Big Island) and before going in October I visited Mt. St. Helens. Got to see two very different types of volcanoes in one year. Need to do that again....


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Due to the prevailing winds Seattle area got lucky. Very light dusting that night, 2 days later a little more. Moses Lake got hammered, you can still see it along I-90. Forget how many times the cloud circled the globe.


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We were sitting in the ferry line at Kingston after doing the rhody run in PT and could hear it blast across the water and we saw the plume. Amazing day I'll never forget.

Speyrod GB

Active Member
It was the day after senior prom. A few friends and were hiking up Wallace Falls. Didn't find out about the eruption until we got home. I guess that was the 1980 version of being unplugged.

Have been up there several times on scooter rides. It's amazing the power of the eruption and what it did to the valley.

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