Posted by Joe Barrentine on May 18th, 2010
Categories: Dean Koepfler, Homepage Widget, Joe Barrentine, Local / regional, Nation / world, News, Projects, Videos
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My wife and I had followed Mt. St. Helens’ awakening with intense interest ever since the first swarms of earthquakes indicated something unusual was going on way down below. When the first minor eruption occurred sometime in March of 1980, we were beside ourselves with excitement—I called in to work with some lame excuse, and we hopped into the car and started driving toward the mountain, stopping only when we hit a roadblock on (I think) the road to Toutle.
Climbing a nearby hilltop, we joined a crowd of gawkers who had already discovered what we were delighted to see—that we’d stumbled upon the best vantage point for miles around. And sure enough, after a ten or fifteen minute wait, we were rewarded with a substantial eruption; nothing compared to the big blow, of course, but spectacular enough that my wife and I agreed it tied the total eclipse of the sun we witnessed the year before in Oregon for most awesome natural phenomenon ever!
So when my mother-in-law called one Sunday morning a few months later to say she’d heard on the news that the whole top of the mountain had blown off (infuriatingly, the weather seemed to be perfect everywhere that day except in North Tacoma, where the clouds kept St Helens hidden all day), we were practically bouncing off the walls with excitement.
Then I turned on the radio: “We have reports of people being boiled alive in their cars” — and we froze in mid-bounce.
THIS was a jolting change in perspective, to say the least.
As was the picture that ran a day or two later in the Trib, an aerial view of the very hilltop we’d been standing on a few weeks earlier–now blasted and barren, huge trees, flattened and stripped of every twig and needle, fanned out over its crest.
And we prayed the authorities had moved the roadblock many, many miles further from the mountain since we’d been there…
May 18, 2010 @ 1:09 pm
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