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Mount St. Helens

Flowers among ruined trees on Mount St. Helens
Summer 2020

Mount St. Helens: The aftermath and lessons learned

The sky was falling. And Richard “Dick” Mack gathered a group of graduate students to help collect it. In the first few days after Mount St. Helens erupted—sending some 540 million tons of ash over an area of 22,000 square miles—the WSU ecology professor was already thinking of its potential research value.

Mack‚ now a professor emeritus in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, spent the summer of 1980 doing field work between Pullman and Vantage, studying the effects of the ash on vegetation—particularly native plants, such as certain willows and grasses. For about five years or so after that, he and … » More …

Where were you logo with Mount St. Helens in background
Summer 2020

“It was raining ash”

The angry-looking ash cloud billowing above Mount St. Helens is one of the most iconic images in state history.

And is etched in our collective memory.

Those living in the state of Washington at the time of the May 18, 1980, eruption all have a where-were-you-when-it-blew moment. Here are some of them.

 

Don Swanson

Volcanologist Don Swanson (’60 Geology) agreed to man the mountain’s forward observation post for a few days to replace a geologist who needed to travel out of town. But Swanson himself needed a replacement for a night—that night.

David A. Johnston, a younger U.S. Geological Survey colleague, agreed to … » More …

Where were you logo with Mount St. Helens in background
Summer 2020

Reader memories of Mount St. Helens

Washington State Magazine asked readers to share their memories of the eruption of Mount St. Helens 40 years ago. Here are their recollections of that fateful day.

 

Long drive home

For whatever reason, we decided that May 18, 1980, was an excellent day to leave campus and go to the motocross races in Clarkia, Idaho. We were watching the races when a large, ominous thunderstorm appeared over the ridge. As we got ready to head for the cars to avoid the rain, it started to snow. Except it wasn’t snow. We hopped into the car and started the long drive back to Pullman. The … » More …

Summer 2015

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens

Richard Waitt
WSU Press, 2014

Like the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, the personal stories of campers, loggers, airline pilots, Forest Service workers, and geologists came pouring out before, during, and after the cataclysm. One of those geologists, Richard Waitt, gathered anecdotes and recollections of the volcanic eruption over the course of three decades, now compiled in this tome.

Waitt blends his own scientific expertise as a researcher who had been on the mountain since its early rumblings with hundreds of eyewitness … » More …

Winter 2010

A New Land

John Bishop was late getting to Mount St. Helens.

He was only 16 years old when it blew in 1980, and it would be another decade before he began crawling around the mountain as part of his doctoral studies.

“I was worried I missed all the action—‘Ten years, it’s all been studied,’” he recalls.

It turns out the dust, pumice, and other ejecta were only beginning to settle, and the mountain would continue to rumble, spit, and recover. In 1994, he found himself running from a mudflow, then watched as it moved fridge-sized boulders and shook the earth beneath his feet. Arriving at WSU Vancouver … » More …

Summer 2006

Journalism's grandest prize

On the morning of Tuesday, May 20, 1980, journalists arrived at The Daily News, turned on their computers, and were greeted with the daily message from managing editor Bob Gaston (’67 Journ.). That day’s message was far from typical.

This was two days after the devastating eruption of Mount St. Helens and less than 24 hours after the Longview newspaper staff published an astounding 45 of its own stories and numerous jaw-dropping photographs of the deadly blast.

Although his exact words are lost to time, the gist of Gaston’s message to the newsroom was this: After just one issue, there was a tremendous buzz in … » More …