18 May 2010

[cascadia] It Was 30 Years Ago Today, Ol' Saint Helens She Began To Play

2413.When Loo-Wit finally testified on 18 May 1980, I was living in Salem. I don't recall ever seeing much of the actual eruptions, even though on a clear day, Mount Saint Helens was visible from the state capitol.


I do remember, along with everyone else, following all the geologic news for the year leading up to the eruption. Being some 150 miles south southwest of the peak, Salem was never in for much trouble; I recall one or two very light ash dustings, on those rare days when the prevailing wind was from the north northeast, but that was pretty much it.

In Salem, that was big news. Not the ash-fall, so much, as the change of wind direction. Nothing much ever happens in Salem. Thirty years ago, Salem's half again bigger than it was, but somehow, it feels just as big as it ever was.

One bit of fallout that we did get from Mt. Saint Helens actually occurred before the eruption. On 14 May, Just four days before he was to meet his maker with the assistance of the largest known landslide in recorded Cascadian history, Harry Truman – otherwise known as the foul-mouthed, whiskey-and-coke-swilling, curmudgeonly-with-a-heart-of-gold owner of the St Helens Lodge, was flown via helicopter by the National Geographic magazine to what was felt a good place to show him with the peoples ... and decided that they would give the students at Clear Lake Elementary School, in what we today call the City of Keizer, just north of Salem, a payoff on the letters they sent him.

They do say that no good deed goeth unpunished.

This always struck me as taking a drunken sailor to speak to a group of Cub Scouts, but hey, I never was one for PR. The Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on it:

The Columbian also reported on The Legend Of Harry Truman.

And then, on 18 May ...

Big Bada Boom, Cascadia style. Yes, it can happen here, and we have documentary proof (and, incidentally, documentary proof that Salem once had an afternoon newspaper: the Oregon Statesman and Capitol Journal merged for good in June of 1980 after having a combined weekend edition (also known as the Statesman-Journal) for some years).

After that, of course, years of authentically-Cascadian silliness, as vials of what was supposed to be St. Helens ash made retail bank for years and paper mouth-and-nose masks became part of Pacific Northwest couture. The Lonely Planet guidebook gleefully published how Portlanders were subject to daily ash alerts for years after there were such things (one reason I still, to this day, doubt the scholarship inherent in a Lonely Planet guidebook). And, of course, the "Oregon, Get Your Own Volcano" bumper-stickers owned by perpetually pissed-off Washingtonians who, for some reason, won't take what ash fell on Oregon back (hey, fair's fair!).

And besides, we do have our own volcanoes. Still in one piece, neener neener.

Well, for now, anyway.

When I first heard of the geological activity potentially available almost literally in my own back yard (having grown up within site of Wy'East almost my entire life) I was hoping to see an eruption, but now that I know what a dacitic eruption can do to a cone, I'll pass on that desire, thanks.

I like Mount Hood just the way she is.

In one piece. Though people do occasionally look eastward with a  bit of suspicion. As do Salemites, I'm sure, but to be a true Salemite, you kind of have to look at everything outside city limits with a bit of suspicion. Yes, that includes Keizer.

And so it goes.
  • Also See This! At Boston.com, as part of their Big Picture series, A collection of 32 great images of the day the mountain blew as well as pictures of David Johnston, the man who emitted the signature shout of the disaster (Vancouver, Vancouver! This is it!!!), which would have been a cooler line to have been famous for saying had he not died only seconds after saying it – being only six miles from Mount Saint Helens at the moment of eruption. http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/05/mount_st_helens_30_years_ago.html.

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