Friday Freethought: “Laws spring from the instinct of self-preservation” »« Where Was This Contraction Contraption When I Needed It?

New at Rosetta Stones: Buried in a Blast Cloud

We’re concluding our eyewitness accounts of the Mount St. Helens lateral blast with tales from those who were on the ground – literally. These are among the most harrowing of the survivors’ stories. These were folks who were caught outside, no shelter, in the direct line of the blast. Not everyone with them survived. And keep in mind that all of these folks were in “safe” areas, many of them protected by ridges, outside the red zones. It took wits, luck, quick thinking, and the bravery of rescuers willing to face down an ongoing eruption to get them out.

A couple of extra pictures that didn’t make it into the original post help illustrate the devastation these folks survived.

North side of Spud Mountain at equipment site, northwest of Mount St. Helens. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 5, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

North side of Spud Mountain at equipment site, northwest of Mount St. Helens. Cowlitz County, Washington. June 5, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Margin of blast zone, south side of North Fork Toutle River. Cowlitz County, Washington. May 20, 1980.  Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Margin of blast zone, south side of North Fork Toutle River. Cowlitz County, Washington. May 20, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Here endeth the eyewitness accounts. Next, we’re going to see what science tells us about the blast, and you’ll get a very intimate look at what such amazingly powerful eruptions leave behind.

Comments

  1. rq says

    Typo: 3 kilometers will be approximately 2 miles, not one. ;)
    Thanks for the (yet again) awesome post. Those are some incredibly lucky people, to survive like that… Amazing! Can’t wait for the scientific breakdown (freezing cold? searing hot? stopped like a wall?)!!

  2. says

    It’s really strange to me, and incredibly unsettling, how abruptly the blast zone ends. Did the blast just run out of energy at that point? (Or, I guess, fall just below the threshold required to knock down trees?)

  3. jane says

    You really captured how terrifying and confusing it must have been to be in the middle of the eruption. I’m sure it still haunts the survivors to think how they got out alive and others didn’t. They probably still carry the emotional and physical scars.
    I walked around in the blast zone just a few years after the eruption. The surreal image of all those stripped trees lying down in brown dirt facing in one direction is seared in my memory. Thanks for another excellent piece of writing!

  4. georgemontgomery says

    A small point, perhaps – Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything” mentions Jack Hyde, a Professor of Geology at a community college in Tacoma as having warned of the possibility of a lateral blast. Community college professors attract little notice…

  5. jane says

    That’s so cool, George, that you unearthed that fact about Jack Hyde. He was one of my dad’s field assistants when Jack was working toward his geology degree. My dad (Dwight Crandell) really thought highly of him. Jack later went on to become the mayor of Tacoma for a short amount of time before he died.