A Pacific Northwest Photography Blog

Mount Saint Helens - Viewed Near Johnston Ridge

Remembering the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. Thirty-two years ago yesterday on May 18th, one of the biggest natural disasters that has ever occurred in the history of the State of Washington took place.  The events of the eruption still holds a fascination for me even after all these passing years.  In honor of those who perished, and who undoubtedly are still missed by their friends and loved ones, I dedicate today’s post.

Most of the forested hills along the Toutle River were planted about 25 years ago. The land within the Mount St. Helens National Monument was left to recover ‘naturally.’ Within the monument area, you can clearly see the blow-down area and the area where the debris flowed into the Toutle. It is still an amazing place.

Mount Saint Helens - Blow Down Area - Click Photo for Enlarged View

Mount Saint Helens - Blow Down Area - Click Photo for Enlarged View

Mt. St. Helens erupted at 0832 on May 18, 1980 triggered by a 5.1 earthquake and blew 1300 feet off the top of the mountain. David Johnston, a USGS geologist who was on a ridge six miles from the mountain monitoring it’s activity, sent this radio message to Vancouver, WA (they were his last words, he perished) “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it….” With those words—tinged with excitement rather than panic, hearers said, announced the end of calm and the start of cataclysm.

Pre 1980 Eruption - Mount Saint Helens - Public Domain Image

Pre 1980 Eruption - Mount Saint Helens - Public Domain Image

Later an observatory was built on a ridge overlooking the crater, both the ridge and observatory stand as a memorial to his work, both bear his name, Johnston.  At the time I lived in Kent, about a two hour drive from the mountain.  The sound of the eruption woke me up on that Sunday morning.  On the occasion of several of the subsequent eruptions, my place received a dusting of ash which looked like a heavy winter frost.  Then later when it rained, it looked like running milk down your windows and over your car. At the Port of Seattle, where I worked at the time,  we had ‘Emergency Eruption Stations,’ filled with masks and supplies if we needed them in the event of a huge eruption that fanned the plume into Seattle.  During one of the earlier subsequent eruptions, as I was driving home from work one afternoon on Interstate 5 in the SeaTac area, the weather was clear and you could see the massive plume over 100 miles away. People were so mesmerized by the sight that traffic stopped in the middle of the freeway and people were out of their cars gawking.

USGS Photo of Eruption on May 18, 1980 - Public Domain Image

USGS Photo of Eruption on May 18, 1980 - Public Domain Image

Fifty seven people were killed in the eruption and it devastated 230 square miles of forest, ripping trees out of the ground as far as 17 miles from the volcano. One survivor was David Crockett, 28, a photographer with KOMO News 4, he was at the base of the mountain on a logging road in a truck. At the moment of the eruption he looked up and saw a wall of mud coming towards him. His location on the road was such that the mud flow split into two ‘rivers’ and flowed around him. He drove a short distance and the road was washed out. He got out of the truck, taking his video camera with him and began stumbling towards a small patch of light on the horizon, this is what he recorded that day as he fought to live: “I am walking toward the only light I can see. I can hear the mountain rumble. At this very moment I have to say, ‘Honest to God, I believe I am dead.’ The ash in my eyes burns my eyes, burns my eyes! Oh dear God, this is hell! It’s very, very hard to breathe and very dark. If I could only breathe air. God, just give me a breath! I will try the radio. Mayday! Mayday! Ash is coming down on me heavily. It’s either dark or I am dead. God, I want to live!” He was rescued 10 hours later and his six minute video has become a classic piece detailing the eruption.

Just one last note of interest, my girl friend and I had made several trips down to look at the mountain prior to the initial eruption on May 18th, we made plans to go camp at the Toutle River Campground the very weekend of the first eruption, but it was either my work schedule or hers that prevented us from being in the midst of that disaster. Some who were camping at that location survived, some did not. I am thankful for the Lord’s providence that kept us out of harm’s way. (Clicking on any image – including the featured image gives an enlarged view).

Thanks for joining me today, for the view that is right here! ~ Madge

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Weekly Top SHOT

Weekly Top SHOT

It’s time for you to enter your photos in ‘Weekly Top Shot – #31.’ ‘Weekly Top Shot’ is open to everyone and is not themed. Pick one of your posts that pleases you most and share it with us! The linky is open every Saturday morning by 09:00 Pacific Standard Time and will close the following Friday evening at 23:59.

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56 Responses to Mount St. Helens – Weekly Top Shot #31

  • My parents were living in Billings, MT at the time of this eruption… ash was carried that far east and they had a dusting of ash that was quite amazing! I had forgotten some of the details and definitely enjoyed reading your post and seeing your photos of how the area looks now. The stock photo with the plume of smoke/ash rising high in the air is incredible! I saw Mount St. Helens from quite a distance 7 years ago while hiking on one of the trails outside of Bend, OR (or MacKenzie Bridge, OR)… forget which hiking trail it was but parts of it passed over a lava field that was one of the results of that eruption. It was quite something to see. I’m about to finally add a post here after a long hiatus. Thanks for the weekly reminders to link in! 🙂

    • LilyMay says:

      I stood on our front lawn and watched the erutoipn of Mt. St. Helen’s volcano. I was teaching in a junior high and when I drove home the landscape was covered in snow like ash, thick with ash from the volcano 45 miles away.

  • Tricia says:

    Very informative & awesome post, Madge! I remember the eruption & I remember ash falling from the sky here in Southeast Missouri, too! I kept asking my grandma where it was coming from & she kept saying, “From Mt St Helen” & I just couldn’t believe her… I kept telling her, “No, there has to be a fire here, g’ma, we better look around the neighborhood!”
    I remember hearing the recordings of those men & seeing the video of the little tiny spec of light thru the smoke.
    I had just turned 10 yrs old when it erupted & I remember being scared… I don’t remember the earthquake, tho… which is odd, because I follow earthquakes religiously, now… I subscribe to updates of all 4.0 & higher eq’s via email & I have an earthquake notifier every hour of how many & where they occur.

    And what about Spirit Lake… that was one incredibly gorgeous scene w/ the mountain in the background!

    God bless all who lost their lives!

  • Tricia says:

    I also remember the Mt St Helen movie & how the man that lived on the mountain wouldn’t come down… he stayed there & died on that mountain…

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I've been publishing 'The View From Right Here' in one form or another since 2007. I hope you find images you enjoy from my travels around Seattle, Puget Sound and the greater Pacific Northwest, giving you a glimpse of the beautiful region of the United States of America, where I have always lived.
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