Where Were You When the Mountain Blew?

A gorgeous view of Mt. St. Helens from Johnston Ridge Visitors Center on June 12, 2016.


At 8:32 am on May 18, 1980, a 5.1 earthquake triggered the greatest landslide in recorded history followed by a lateral blast of 1000-degree super heated pyroclastic gas and rock traveling 450 miles per hour and flattening the forest like toothpicks. Finally, an eruption spewed ash 15 miles into the atmosphere for 9 hours. The ash traveled 60 mph eastward reaching Idaho and turning the day into night.

Mt. St. Helens, with a mile-wide crater, lost 1300′ in elevation and now stands 8363 feet tall. Nature has sown Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon wildflowers.


Looking north I feel like I’m standing on top of the world!


The blast zone environment has been left to recover naturally. The jagged tree stumps and downed timber from that day when the blast snapped thick tree trunks like toothpicks.


Clearwater Lake, a creation born from the disaster.


Mt. St. Helens from Hoffstadt Bluffs.


Melted snow and mud flash-flooded the Toutle River valley carrying a forest of downed trees and boulders. The deposited mud and ash was 150 feet deep in some areas. Over 230 square miles were affected:  185 miles of highway, 47 bridges, 15 miles of train track, and 250 homes were destroyed. It was the largest, most deadliest natural disaster in US history, causing $1.1 billion in damages and taking the lives of 57 people, an estimated 7000 big game, 12 million fish, and millions of birds and small mammals.

You never know what the day may bring. A cloud covered mountain was the view when we visited 2 weeks earlier on May 28, 2016.


After showing a film, the curtain rises to reveal Mt St Helens. This is where 30-year-old volcanologist David Johnston was standing when the mountain violently erupted on May 18, 1980. The blast traveled 300mph taking only 40 seconds to arrive where Johnston stood 5.5 miles distant. His body was never found. The magnitude of the blast was 500 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.


I remember exactly where I was on May 18, 1980, at 8:32am. As a tour guide I enjoy taking visitors to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and sharing my story along with those of both the victims and survivors of that catastrophic event!


I’ll never forget May 18, 1980.

Where were you when the mountain blew?

5 responses to “Where Were You When the Mountain Blew?

  1. I am a native of Tacoma, WA & had moved to CA when the mountain blew. I did drive up there in late summer with my daughter & 2 friends. Had to see it! What a shock to see it! What a surprise to see your photos of it now. Nature does wonders! I will be back up that way later this year; hopefully, get a chance to see it again. And, welcome back to the West Coast!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, I didn’t know that you were a Washington transplant! Yes, in 1980 the mountain was a sorry sight – black scab, ash stained snow – before the big one. Afterwards there was mountains of ash and a bleak “moonscape.” In 36 years it’s made a remarkable come back!

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  2. Merrill,
    I’ll never forget where I was. Steve and I were riding a motorcycle home from eastern Oregon, in the rain, on May 18, 1980. We stopped at Government Camp on Mt. Hood to use the restroom and a man asked us if we had heard the mountain blew.
    See ya soon.
    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

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