Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

May 18, 1980 we here in the pacific northwest witnessed a stunning natural event: the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Today is the 28th Anniversary of that event. It was a Sunday, just like today.

It was violent, it was indescribably powerful and it was a bit frightening. People died on the mountain that day. Ash coated many areas of the northwest and the wind carried the ash further than anyone could have believed.

My mother was a counselor at a Christian Camp on Spirit Lake in her teen years. We have a marvelous picture of her with the pristine mountain in the background with Spirit lake behind her. A famous photo of the post eruption mountain was taken from almost the same vantage point. It is a stunning comparison (my apologies for not posting those two photos, but I don't have them with me).

In my home town, Forest Grove Oregon, we got a fairly decent coating of the ash. I was 16 years old and was working at Jan's Food Mill on that fateful day. I was the Sunday morning hostess. My jobs were to prepare the dining room for the Sunday brunch and to cut up pineapples, honeydew melons and other various fruits... among other things. That morning, my mother called me at the restaurant and wanted me to come home. I remember chuckling and thinking... exactly what will my coming home do to deal with the fact that the volcano is erupting? I stayed at work and did my job. I had a strong work ethic, even then. :)

A co-worker and friend of mine arrived at work, with an 'ash dusting' in her Afro! It was pretty surreal. We walked outside and observed the ash falling from the sky. It was quite bizarre... the darkness in broad daylight, and a natural phenomenon occurring in our presence. We knew we were witnessing something historic, and something we would remember all our lives. 28 years later, the day is still one of the most vivid in my life's history.

To this day, driving down I-5 around the Toutle River, you can still see the 'man made' hills of ash. You wouldn't know that's what they are, if you see them today. They are covered with brush, and some small trees. When they first appeared, they were barren piles of gray volcanic dust. Those of us who've driven that freeway for the past 30 years know exactly what we're looking at. It's something I always point out to tourists.

Nature is powerful. Lest we ever think we can contain it, let's remember that the mysteries of mother earth and this universe will never be predictable or totally explainable from our human level of understanding!

Here are some interesting websites about Mt. St. Helens and the surrounding area:

Here are some photos of the mountain: Pre-eruption, during eruption... and in around 1996.

Mt. St. Helens - Pre Eruption

The Eruption - May 18, 1980

Me and a friend at Mt. St. Helens ~1996

In honor of those who died on the mountain that fateful day in 1980... and in reverence and respect for the power of mother nature... we observe this day!

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