It was one of those first really nice spring days of the year in Pullman, Washington, about 265 miles east of the volcano. People were coming home from church, working in the garden and planning to eat dinner out on the deck when a huge black cloud started to appear on the horizon.
It was ash from Mt. St. Helens, but most people didn't know it, unless they had the news on. The cloud got bigger and bigger until it shut out the sun, but it wasn't really a storm. No rain or wind, just darkness. With in an hour, or two, that sunny afternoon was transformed into the dark of night. Street lights came on. It was as black as midnight.
Meanwhile, here in Bellingham where I was, I didn't know what was happening. It was a typical spring day over here, even though Bellingham is a little closer to the mountain than Pullman. The wind carried the ash to the east. Eventually, I heard the news on TV and I felt cheated that I was missing the excitement. Life in most of Western Washington was deceptively normal.
Then the radio reported that people had heard the blast as far away as Vancouver, BC. about 50 miles farther from the mountain than Bellingham. I tried to remember what I was doing, at that moment, and realized I had heard the blast also. It sounded like someone was trying to break into my place of work as the front door was being pushed against and rattling on its hinges. At the time, I didn't pay that much attention as no one was at the door, but later I realized it was shock waves from Mt. St. Helens.
The night after the eruption, my sister called me from Pullman, phones were still working. She said she didn't know when she was going to see the sun again. It was a spooky feeling, but next day, the sun did come out. The hazy sunshine revealed a gritty world. It looked like everything was covered in talcum powder. Every time someone tried to walk out doors, or even worse drive, it would kick up a cloud that would obscure visibility. Schools had to close for the rest of the season, business ground to a halt, the grit did damage to any cars that tried to drive in it.
Unlike a big snow fall, which eventually melts away, this stuff had to be shoveled up and hauled away. It took months for the clean up, but Pullman's people remember the event with great fondness. They got to witness geology in action.
Here in Bellingham, I missed most of the action, but, in 1986 I took a bicycle trip to the Mt. St. Helens area. Here are some images of the devastation as seen from Windy Ridge near the mountain.
Blown down timber seen from Windy Ridge, near Mt. St. Helens, six years after the blast. 1986.
Farther back from mountain, near Cougar, WA., nice day for a rainbow. 1994.
Big new bridges on road into west side of National Monument.
Java stand along the way
More pictures below
Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms: Some people say these are signs of the impending end of the world. I say the opposite. These are signs that the world is still being created. The world is never finished.
Some say Mt. Baker, near Bellingham, is soon to erupt. In 1976, or so, there was increased steam activity, but since then nothing unusual. In geological time, "soon" could mean some time in the next thousand years.