Carolyn Holly: My Vantage Point

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Watch her blow again. Mount St. Helens TV special and your stories

by Carolyn Holly

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBCarolyn


Posted on May 18, 2010 at 12:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 18 at 8:27 PM

Hi guys......Love your memories of the Mount St. Helens eruption. I'm sharing some of your stories at the bottom of this blog.

But, I want you to know about a TV special on the mountain, then and now. It will be on Northwest Cable News (Channel 22 and 7.3) at 11:30pm MDT tonight (Tuesday May 18th).

Check out these memories of people who remember what happened to them the day she blew her top:

Carolyn, I was living in Eugene at the time and I remember hearing the explosion.  I didn't know what it was until I heard other people talking about it.  Ash rained down on Eugene, as it did in Portland and all over the Northwest.  It was just a thin coating, but it was there.  And in no time at all, people started capitalizing on it by selling tiny bags of ash.  Only in America, right?

Carolyn, My son and I were reading the Sunday newspaper at the kitchen table in Lynnwood Washington when the entire house shook from the concussion of St Helens blowing its lid. It sounded like someone had driven through the garage door and then with the second big concussion, we knew what it was.We got on top of the house and sure enough, there was the tremendous cloud rising in the south and we knew it was St.Helens. A day surely to remember!

May 18, 1980....My graduation day in Pendleton, Ore.  That morning was the most exciting day of my life....1st ... off to the Hot Springs outside of town with friends....then shower, change and attend the biggest day of my life!  On our way back from the Hot Springs, however, we coasted into a gas station (in the middle of nowhere) and, there at the other pump, was a car COMPLETELY covered in white stuff...all you could see of the car was the window where the windshield wipers swept away the "stuff".  The couple who owned that car seemed to me to be in their early 100's...."A volcano just blew" they said...I remember we laughed all the way back to Pendleton, talking about how crazy these old people were....the rest is history.  Now, as I prepare (with my fellow committee members), for our 30 year Class Reunion, it is now a poster created on the wall of our party hall....History of the day of our graduation.

I remember vividly that day, because it was also the day of my high school graduation at Bishop Kelly High School here in Boise.  When I heard on TV that the mountain went up, I cruised out to the backyard in my cap and gown, trying to determine if I could see anything.  Of course, it was impossible since we were so far away, but it was all my family and I could talk about as we headed to the school gym for my graduation.  Later that summer I purchased a small plastic container with Mount St. Helens ash in it, which I still own.  The eruption and the end of my high school career will forever be linked, and I guess it was the mountain’s way of wishing us well. 

I was safely back home in Tofino, BC wiping the sweat of relief from my brow and celebrating my oldest daughter’s 11 birthday.  Exactly one week earlier, my two daughters and I were camping at Mount St. Helens and driving all around the volcano area.

At the time of the Mt St Helen's eruption I was working in Portland.  That morning my brother and his wife had picked me up to go to the Willamette River for the day.  We watched the whole thing happen in front of us.   In disbelief we saw the exact time it erupted.  The plumes of ash for days, weeks, and months afterwards were unbelievable and I too watched the news reports and could not believe the devastation.  I did eventually go to the "Red Zone" which was at the time as far as you could travel towards the mountain and remember going by cabins, etc that were buried in ash.  It has forever changed me just because you think of a mountain always being there and to see something this powerful happen has made me realize to take nothing for granted.

Dear Ms. Holly, In May 1980 I was working as a police officer in Sandy, a small logging town 24 miles east of Portland and attending Mt. Hood Community college in the evenings.  I could smell the sulfur in the air some nights as I drove into Gresham for a class.  I'd worked a night shift that Saturday.  I could just see the top of the mountain to the north from my deck.  Dispatch called at about 8:30am to notify everybody the mountain had just blown.  I went to the deck.  I could see the plume as it went straight up and seemed to take a right turn towards central Washington and other points east.  I felt pretty lucky that we dodged it.  About two weeks later I was on a weekend trip to Seaside and got up on that Sunday to prepare to drive back and saw everybody running around in the rain wearing Mr. Coffee filters and all the vehicles were covered with mud.  It seemed the mountain had erupted again and it blew south and west.  Driving home was like going through an ashtray.  I think the ash lasted about a week and I was cleaning my apartment for at least two weeks after that.

Carolyn, I was at my high school’s graduation near Missoula, Montana. I was a junior attending my senior friends’ graduation. As we were all going into the gymnasium for the ceremony, dark clouds coming from the west were visible on the horizon. Everyone thought it was a thunderstorm approaching…no one had heard about the eruption yet. I overheard a couple of people comment, “Looks like quite a storm we’re gonna have.” An hour and a half later as the graduates were lining up outside the gymnasium for their receiving line, little flecks of ash were falling. “What is that stuff?” was a common question people asked. That night on the local news we all heard about the eruption. We were advised to stay indoors or wear a mask if we had to be outside. Schools, which were only days from being finished for the year, were closed. Businesses were closed for about a week. We got approximately 3 inches of ash on the ground in our area about an hour north of Missoula. My most vivid memories of the experience are those of playing table tennis in the middle of our family living room…for 4 days…windows closed. Besides watching television for the latest updates, that’s about all we did. Yes it was muggy! We also had to make up the days of school we missed. I can’t imagine what life must be like in Iceland for those living there!!!!

I too have a vivid memory of where I was the day that Mt. St. Helens erupted. At the time we were living in Coeur d’Alene I was 11 and I had gone out with my family that day in to the woods picking Morel mushrooms so we were not aware that it had blown, but we saw what we thought were big black rain clouds coming so we cut our outing short and upon getting in the car and turning on the radio we found out that the “black clouds” were in fact Ash clouds. It was crazy, not long after the ash started dumping like rain and day turned to night. I can remember being a bit scared, but I remember that the upside was that we got almost a week out of school if I remember right! As a kid that was always a bonus! We had ash around our house for years later! It was quite a mess! Years later we found that people had bottled and sold the ash, boy were we bummed because we had tons of it around our house…we probably could have made a fortune! LOL Now I live in Nampa with my own family and have told the story to my own kids several times. Hard to believe it happened so many years ago!

I was actually living in Lake Stevens WA at the time a suburb of Seattle.   Of course we were all waiting for the big ash cloud and predicted earth quake to come.   I was watching TV and they broke into it with the news.  I think all of Seattle watched TV or listen to the radio fearing the worst for our area.  We of course had prepared by storing some food and water, flashlights and emergency supplies.

I am not sure if this is a memory or a dream.  It has to be a memory though. :)  In 1980 I was 5 years old growing up on a farm in Eastern Oregon, about 85 miles west of the Ore/Ida border. I remember being in the front yard that day and small pieces of ash were floating down from the sky. Not enough to accumulate, it was more like someones garbage being burned and the ash blowing over to our place. Thanks for sharing your story, it was interesting.

I was in the hospital in Sioux City, Iowa.  I had given birth the day before to my second son. I whispered to him, “Dustin, you have excited the Mountain Gods”! And he has continued to cause excitement throughout his life!

 Love hearing from all of you...keep the memories coming: