Tue., May 12, 2020
In the days after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, Spokane’s newspapers and residents entered uncharted territory.
Science writer Eric Wagner’s latest book “After the Blast” revisits the events leading up to and following the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Tomorrow will mark the 40-year-anniversary of that historic event.
The Andersons headed to Wilbur on May 17, 1980. They ended up racing a cloud of volcanic ash to get home.
Dizzy Gillespie spent three and a half days in Spokane after Mount St. Helens forced the cancellation of a concert. It was hardly an uneventful stay for the legendary jazz trumpeter.
Since mid-March, Spokane historian and former Spokesman-Review staff writer Jim Kershner has revisited the history of the Mount St. Helens eruption. Here is a compilation of his columns.
The entire horizon was filled with the eruption and everything was a shade of gray. No color. No beautiful forests or lovely lakes. No backwoods roads or logging camps. Total destruction from the mountain blowing the top 1,300 feet off and throwing out 3.7 billion cubic yards of debris at temperatures above 600 degrees.
Mount St. Helens is considered one of easiest Cascade volcanoes to summit and requires little technical knowledge. However, there is a better way. Skiing up using specially designed “skins” on the bottoms of your skis to grip the snow. Once on top you can ski down, avoiding a long slow slog downhill.
Fears of a wheat harvest affected by the volcanic ash were short-lived as 1980 turned out to be a record year for the crop. Reports from the time show most agriculture in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were either largely unaffected by the cataclysmic eruption, or that larger market forces were at play in determining the success of crops and livestock.
Veteran country-bluegrass band Asleep at the Wheel rolled into Spokane minutes before Mount St. Helens erupted. That saying about how the show must go on? It went on.
“Which way are we even headed?” “Straight on through the trees there. I’ll let you know if you’re going the wrong direction.”
Mount St. Helens’ story didn’t end when the ash settled and the landslides ground to a halt. It’s still going on today.