Monday, July 14, 2014
A Blast from the Past
I've always had a fascination with volcanoes though I've never seen one up close unless you count the extinct Mount Boucherie on the west side of Kelowna, which I don't.
However, in a few short days, I will stand in the spot once devastated by the biggest volcanic eruption on mainland North America on May 18, 1980 - I think you know what I'm referring to - and to say I'm excited is an understatement.
I was five when Mount St. Helen's erupted. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember the stories and the ash that fell in Castlegar. Maybe that's where this fascination started.
In Grade 10, one of my English assignments was to write about an event in history as if I had actually been there. Guess what I chose?
I'm rather embarrassed to be posting this, but rest assured, my writing ability has drastically improved since this piece was written. I hope.
As written in 1991, age 16.
DIARY of ROBIN LUNN - The Buildup to the Explosion of Mount St. Helens - May 18, 1980
March 20, 1980
You wouldn't believe what happened tonight. I was sitting in front of the TV when there was a slight earthquake. Everything started shaking. I wasn't sure as to what it was at first, but it was announced on TV. It was measured to be 4.1 on the Richter scale. The news reporter mentioned that the quake was about twenty miles north of Mount St. Helens.
I can't help thinking, " what if the mountain blows?" I have a right to be really scared considering I only live 5 miles away from the mountain.
March 25, 1980
This is getting scary. There were about 40 earthquakes per hour today. The first one started at about 5:30 this morning. I was just getting up for work when they started. There were about five on my way to work. Traffic was delayed for about an hour because some power lines were down.
At work all the power when out around 10:00 AM and was suspected to be out all day, so everyone was sent home. Since 11:00 AM, when I got home, there have been about sixty earthquakes. Everyone has been advised to stay home until further notice so I guess I won't have to go to work for awhile.
March 27, 1980
Today while I was outside mowing the lawn, Mount St. Helen's exploded. It sent a small plume of ash into the air. The ash came down all around me. I ran to the house for cover.
On the news it said that a small blemish had appeared on the snow capped peak of Mount St. Helens. The crater was about two hundred and fifty feet wide and sixty feet deep.
There have been more eruptions tonight. Each blowing rock and steam into the air. The news said that everyone within a twenty mile radius of Mount St. Helens must evacuate immediately. I guess I will go pack and go to my mom's.
March 28, 1980
I'm at my mom's in California. I arrived late last night. All day long I have been watching the news to see if there's any change in anything. According to the reporter, another crater has appeared on the mountainside. Each little eruption makes those craters bigger.
Mom is scared that if the volcano erupts it will reach her house. I've told her that she's crazy. It would never reach this far. At least I hope not.
March 30, 1980
There was another big eruption today. This one blew ash and steam as far south as Bend, Oregon.
Six more earthquakes have been detected today. They are said to have reached between 3.3 and 4.4 on the Richter scale. I'm starting to wonder if it's safe to even stay here. I'm trying to keep mom relaxed but it's hard when I'm really scared, too. What's going to happen if the quakes get stronger?
April 1, 1980
The earthquakes are still going heavily. They are between 4.5 to 4.7 on the Richter scale. The news reporters are saying that they think the mountain will erupt. I just hope mom hasn't heart that. She will go insane. She'll say were't going to move somewhere farther away. She worries too much about every little thing.
I admit I'm getting more and more scared every time I hear something about this on the news, but I'm not getting as crazy as Mother. She'll lighten up, I hope.
April 3, 1980
Today's mom's birthday. She's not very happy. I've told her it's supposed to be a happy day but this whole trauma is getting to her. It's worse since she heard about the last earthquake. It was measured at 4.8 on the Richter scale. She even thinks she felt it here. I don't think so. I never felt anything.
There is a lot of company here now. I called a whole bunch of mom's friends and asked them to come over for mom's party. Mom looks a bit happier but I know that she's still worried. So am I.
How will this whole thing turn out?
April 10, 1980
Today we were permitted to return home. We have to sign disclaimers first which stated that we recognized the risks and assumed responsibility for our own safety. Mom didn't want me to go. She practically started crying. She said was safer for me there but I refused. I returned home about 2:00 this afternoon. There was ash everywhere. It was over an inch thick on my front porch.
Mount St. Helens erupted again tonight. It propelled a plume of light steam and ash fifteen thousand feet about sea level. There were many seismic vibrations beneath the volcano. I think that's what they called it. The crater is measured to be more than 320 feet. The crater seemed to be getting gradually larger.
April 13, 1980
Those scientists are crazy. According to the news, a team of scientists flew in by helicopter to observe Mount St. Helens' swelling dome. The reporters were saying that the seismic activity could increase. I don't why the scientists would go up there if there was the chance that the volcano could erupt. The scientists reported that glowing molten rock was moving within the crater. They had seen the molten rock growing into a mound.
April 24, 1980
There have been many eruptions in the past few days but nothing really serious. The scientists went into the crater on foot today. It was the first time in five days. The past days were rainy and cloudy. Really crummy. That's why the scientists couldn't go up any earlier.
Things seem to be settling down for awhile. Maybe for good.
April 30, 1980
Some scientists reported that the growing bulge was the most serious potential hazard posed by current volcanic activity.
Those scientists talk too scientifically. I don't understand anything they really say. I just remember it.
I've moved in with a friend in the city because Governor Ray has said that no one can be withing 10 miles of Mount St. Helens.
May 5, 1980
I'm still staying with my friend. Things are started to get a little worse. At least that's what they say on the news and in the papers.
Scientists have confirmed that molten rock pushing up inside Mount St. Helens was causing the bulge.
May 7, 1980
Today there was another steam and ash eruption. It blew the rock and ash into the air about six miles.
People around here are getting really nervous. Everyone is jumpy and worried. I'm definitely one of them.
I have this feeling that the big day is getting closer. I hope it's not too soon.
May 9, 1980
Last night there was an earthquake of magnitude five. Another earthquake of the same magnitude was registered today.
Today is my birthday. I'm having a small party but nothing major.
The news just said that the USGS abandoned its observation installation at Timberline Camp.
They also mentioned that there was a predicted lava eruption on May 21. That's only two weeks away.
May 12, 1980
Some steam vents were observed along the crater's west rim. A five magnitude quake sit off an ice avalanche. The day is getting closer. I haven't moved from the TV in 24 hours.
May 15, 1980
Forty earthquakes have been recorded today. Quite a few things have been broken here. A lot of power lines are down, too. The lights just came back on a little while ago. I've been busy cleaning up broken glass from all the broken dishes. Even one window was broken.
May 17, 1980
Geologist Dave Johnston was observing the mountain today.
He said, " It could be in hours or even days or even a couple of months. But right now there's a very great hazard due to the fact that the glacier is breaking up on this side of the volcano - the north side. And that could produce a very large avalanche hazard. This is not a good spot to be standing in."
Other people told their stories, too. I wonder when it will blow.
May 18, 1980
It's 8:00AM. I just woke up from a restless night's sleep. I hope this thing happens soon so I can rest easily again.
8:30AM. Only three more days until the predicted explosion. Something going on on the TV. I think Mount St. Helens is going to blow. This is definitely something to remember.
The mountain blew at exactly 8:32AM. The explosion was tremendous. There was first an earthquake that registered 5.1 on the Richter scale. That's what set off the explosion. The black smoke was blown 63,000 feet in the air. It's said that the explosion was heard 200 miles away. Hot gas, ash and huge rocks were hurled into the sky. The blast was estimated to have been five hundred times greater than the 20 kiloton atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
The landscape around the mountain and miles beyond was totally destroyed by the searing hot lava. There were various widespread forest fires. Thankfully the falling ash put most of the fires out.
This was a day I will never forget, as long as I live.