Cleaning house physically, emotionally, and mentally.

It was 34 years ago today that Mt. St. Helens blew. And it was also a Sunday. I was living in Spokane, Washington, 290 miles as the crow flies, northwest of Mt. St. Helens.

That day, I was outside refinishing an end table. Since I was under the patio, I didn’t notice the sky at first. It was only when it started getting dark in the early afternoon that I raised my head from my task and wondered what was going on. The sky looked like a big storm was approaching, but not like any storm I had ever seen. I thought snow was falling from the storm, but it didn’t melt.

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I went inside to turn on the TV for some news and was shocked at what I heard. This was volcanic ash coming our way!

I brought the dog inside and basically hunkered down, watching the news. It got dark and a bit scary. Events were cancelled for the rest of the day, including a Dizzy Gillispie concert.

By Monday morning, everything was covered in an inch or so of ash. I did not go to work as everyone was told to stay off the streets and don’t drive. The ash would clog up the car’s air filter.

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We were also told to hose down everything to keep the ash from blowing around. So I put a bandana over my face and ventured outside with the dog. As the dog walked around, little miniature plumes of ash rose with each step. I put the dog back inside and started hosing down the house, yard, and street.

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Since I worked several miles away from where I lived, I did not go to work for 3 days. By then, you could drive without stirring up the ash.

I moved a month later to a house with a huge yard and an apricot tree. Mowing the lawn was filthy work with ash still on the ground. The apricots were huge that year, though you really had to wash the ash off before eating them.

There were a couple of minor eruptions that summer that sent a dusting of ash over the area. Like everyone else, I collected volcanic ash in little jars. Unfortunately, those jars have since been lost.

For years, you could still see ash on the side of I-90 driving in the Ritzville/Moses Lake area.

I have also lost all the photos I took. Here are a few photos I scrounged up. The photographer, Will Pennell, was a friend of my dads.

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Comments on: "The Big Blowout – Mt. St. Helens Volcano" (2)

  1. i remember that. unlike Hangaku, we didn’t get any ash (or at least none that I noticed) in my section of town

  2. I remember that day as well. The images we saw on network news shows were frightening. What surprised a lot of us in California was that the ash made its way down to our cities. The skies turned grey from the residual ash that blew from the volcano, and the maroon Dodge Valiant we had parked in the driveway had a light coating of grey dust. It went on for days, too. I couldn’t believe that one geological phenomenon so far north would have an impact on most of the West Coast.

    Just over 20 years later, my younger daughter and a friend went camping at the park that had been buried by the eruption. She said that except for sections of the park that were covered by lahars and flattened trees, you couldn’t tell there had been an eruption there. A park ranger who lived in the area however told her the park used to be more heavily wooded than it is today, largely because pine trees take a lot longer to mature and are sensitive to changes in soil and moisture in their environment. The eruption caused some major damage to the park, and years later, it still hasn’t completely recovered.

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