The mountain’s crater had been rumbling and steaming for several weeks. I was camping near a mountain stream in the Cascade Mountain Range over 300 air miles from the mountain when it blew.
What I heard sounded like blasting nearby.
Odd for early Sunday morning. But our party didn’t think much of it until we boarded our rigs for the trip home and tuned in the radio.
As it turned out, a tremendous explosion of trapped gases, generating about 500 times the force or the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, blew the entire top off Mount St. Helens.
In a single blast Mount St. Helens was transformed from a picture-perfect symmetrical cone 9,667 feet high to a flat-top 1300 feet lower.
Clouds of hot ash made up of pulverized rock were belched twelve mile into the sky.
The force of the prolonged energy burst rocketed into the upper atmosphere and slapped the skies. Vertical ripples spread through the atmosphere causing lazy fluctuations in the air.
Hours later in Washington D.C., scientists would record gravity waves from Mount St. Helens crossing the Eastern Seaboard.
There would be six slow cycles of air pressure changes that would pass over the nation’s capital and undulate across the Atlantic Ocean until the force of gravity finally flattened the atmosphere again.
Immediately after the blast, ash quickly smothered the countryside in a fan-shaped pattern north of the volcano.
Boulders would be found over 5 miles from the summit and scientists would find cars and trucks that had been picked up by the wind and dumped atop layers of ash and powdered trees.
More than a cubic mile of material would be discharged into the air. Some chunks of the ejected rock found nearer to the mountain towered as much as three stories high.
Mount St. Helens would signal the beginning of a decade that was both explosive and revolutionary. Sort of symbolic of the 1980s Decade in a way.
The months and weeks leading up to eruption of Mount St. Helens tell a fascinating story of the people and places around Mount St. Helens.
Many of them perished on that fateful day in May, like Harry S. Truman, who refused to leave “his mountain”.