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The Day Mount Saint Helens Erupted: May 18, 1980

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The Violent Eruption

The Violent Eruption

May 18, 1980 Darkness

May 18, 1980 - the day Mount St. Helens erupted. We had been hearing on the news for weeks that the Volcano in southwestern Washington state was gurgling and bubbling but none of us took the warnings too seriously. We were more than 350 miles away in Spokane, the Inland North West, it wasn't a major threat to us, or so we thought.

I had given birth to my first child only eight days before, a healthy baby boy, I had many other things to think about that day. I remember being home with my baby, my husband was at work, it was a beautiful, sunny, and warm May morning. I had just put the baby down for his morning nap and turned on the TV. "Mount St. Helens has erupted" I heard the newscaster say. I remember him saying that there were several people trapped on the mountain and a 30 mile area had been effected so far. It was just before 10:00 am.

I took a shower and pulled myself together while the baby napped - my husband called to check on us and ask if I heard the news - we were still not at all concerned. I listened to the news off and on as I took care of the baby and did some chores. I felt bad for those people in the volcano's surrounding area and I could only imagine what horror they were going through.

Soon the news became more alarming - we were being told to prepare for the worst. The plume of ash was rapidly heading our way. We were cautioned to not venture outdoors, keep doors and windows closed, stuff wet towels under the exterior doors to keep the ash out of the house, do not use air conditioners etc... they were worried about what breathing in the ash would do to our lungs. I was worried about my tiny baby boy.

Just before noon the suet gray ash blocked out the sun entirely. Spokane was completely dark in the middle of the day. It was very frightening. The ash was falling down on our town like large gray snow flakes.

For 3 days we had ash falling, less and less each day but it literally kept raining down on Spokane for 72 hours. The Health Department issued "ash masks" to all those who had to leave the safety of their homes and venture out into the ash covered streets. Cars were stalled every where because they were completely and hopelessly clogged with the destructive ash.

Spokane spent the next several months cleaning up the ash as much as possible. We wore the Ash Masks for the majority of that summer particularly when we were sweeping and shoveling ash. It was more than 30 years ago - but I remember the day it grew dark like it was yesterday.

This is a brief synopsis of my memories of that terrifying time. For more information on the eruption of Mount Saint Helens please check out the links below.

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Mt St Helens National Park is actually a National Monument

Ash Mask - Ash Covered Street

Ash Mask - Ash Covered Street

House near the Volcano

House near the Volcano

Destruction from Mt. St. Helens

Destruction from Mt. St. Helens

Mount Saint Helens Information

  • Information Resource Center & Visitor Guide
    Mount St. Helens Information Resource Center: A collection of Links and information to lodging, restaurants, visitor centers, helicopter tours, permits, gifts, volcanocam, weather, hiking, at Mt. St. Helens Volcano & Forest Learning Center. Disco

May 1980


Sheila (author) from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State on August 10, 2012:

unknown spy - I am glad you stopped by and read one of my Hubs. It was definitely a frightening experience.

DragonBallSuper on August 10, 2012:

CL, wow..interesting to read..Im not yet born when this volcano erupted..but i also read and heard news here in my place how dangerous it can be to all living creatures.

Sheila (author) from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State on July 14, 2012:

Hi Helen, thank you so much for reading my Hub - it was a time of uncertainty that is for sure. The darkness was unforgettable. I bet you took some ribbing because of your name ;-)

oceansider on July 14, 2012:

Hi conservative lady,

Yes, I remember this happening and haven't thought about it all these years, until now when you wrote about it. That was awful, how most people had to stay inside or wear a mask.....and so many cars covered so high with ash that they couldn't be driven until it was all cleaned off. I do also remember as you said, that it got completely dark in Washington. ...Actually, I was teased when it happened because of my name, and that went on for awhile (at work)...I didn't mind it though.

Thanks for writing about this event, and take care, Helen

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