On this 30th anniversary of the catastrophic eruption of Mt. St. Helens I’m going to share some of my memories and some of the photographs that I took at the time. You may have seen better pictures but these are pictures you have not seen before.
One of the memories I have is of my friend Bob Kaseweter who had a cabin at Spirit Lake. He went up to the lake on May 18, 1980 to clean out his cabin. That was the last day of the life of a person who was full of life and loved to live it on the edge. He died on the edge and I am sure that he was thrilled the last few seconds of his life. His body was never found.
On Sunday May 18th, 1980 I had to work. I was employed by a large manufacturing facility that used a number of RF generators in the manufacturing process. As a result we could not get radio or television reception in the building. We heard rumors that something had happened at Mt St Helens throughout the day but because it was a Sunday few people were coming and going. I left work about 2 PM and headed home to NW Portland. I started down the east side of Portland’s west hills and was greeted with the view below. When I got home I grabbed my camera and took the picture below. (Note: you can click on the pictures for a larger image)
There were numerous smaller eruptions over the next few months but most could not be seen because it was overcast or dark. One eruption in July, 1980 occurred on a beautiful day and I took the picture below at about the same location as the picture above.
In August I had the opportunity to fly around the mountain and into the still smoking crater. I took the picture below as we approached the crater. You can see Mt. Adams in the background.
The picture below shows the inside of the crater. You can see the growing lava dome in center left. We were close enough that we could smell the sulfur dioxide. The dome in the picture was destroyed in another explosive eruption a few weeks later.
The recent volcanic activity in Iceland reminded me of the ash and we had several ash events in the Portland area. It’s really hard to explain – you had to be there. The ash is like gray flour that gets into everything. You were lucky to get a week out of the air filter in your car. One ash fall occured while it was raining and it was literally raining mud. The ash got under the shingles and we were cleaning ash out of the gutters for years after the eruption.
Of course Mt St Helens is not the only volcano in the Pacific Northwest. A very clear day in Portland is known as a five mountain day. We can see five mountains, Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood and Jefferson. Four of them are dormant volcanoes and one is active. The picture below is of Mt. Hood from my backyard.
The last major eruption of Mt Hood occurred in 1790, just before the visit of Lewis and Clark. A history of activity on Mt Hood and it’s possible impact can be found here.
In the last few months there have been several earthquake swarms under and around Mt. Hood. The most recent was on Friday. They may just represent tectonic activity but they could be an indication that magma is rising. We won’t know until we do.
South of the Portland there is another recently active volcanic area, the Three Sisters.
The entire area around the South Sister is rising which may indicate a future volcanic event. More information on this can be found in the post Volcanic hot bulge in Oregon.
The Boston Globe has some great pictures.