It started at 3:47 p.m. on March 20 with an earthquake, a magnitude 4.2 tremor beneath the mountain that got everyone’s attention. By early April, there was a bulge, an upwelling of hot magma rising from within and pushing out the north flank at an alarming rate, 5 feet per day. Then came the steam vents and spewing ash, and still the quakes continued, unsettling window rattlers from deep that served as regular reminders to all—the captivated geologists and nervous loggers and impatient locals and the millions of curious Americans following news reports across the country—that Mt. St. Helens, after more than a century of sleep, was up to something. Despite the two months’ notice, despite all eyes on the mountain and all hands on deck, when the eruption came at 8:32 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, 1980, it still caught everyone off guard, because no one thought it would do that.
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I was working at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea MI in 1980. It was my first job after graduating as a mechanical engineer. A few weeks after the eruption, a new police car from a town called Yakima was delivered to the proving grounds. We inspected it to determine the Engine damage caused by the volcanic ash. The car had only been driven less than 2000 miles. Someone had put a stack of round air filters on the roof of the car and cut a hole to allow filtered air to enter the passenger compartment through the filters. There was a hole cut in the hood with a clothes dryer duct run from the engine air cleaner to the passenger compartment side window which was now plexiglass. American ingenuity at its best. The interior of the car was still filthy with ash. The car was a Plymouth As I recall, most likely had the 360 engine. It ran just fine. We put it out on the Proving Grounds test track for a couple weeks just to see how it would survive. Little did I know, I would end up moving just 80 miles east of Yakima later that year to work at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
When I was in grad school in the spring of 1995, I spent 3 days living in my my 78 Scout II at Mt. St. Helens taking pictures and gathering data for a "15 Years After" presentation for one of my classes. This story and the similarly-vintaged vehicle brought back a lot of fond memories. Thank you!
Oh wow, this reminds me back when I used to live in the PNW. And I would be crazy enough at that time to take my 2004 Dodge Intrepid "The Boat" up those old logging trails. It's amazing where carefully calculated routes can get you in a front wheel drive 4-door sedan. Man how much I would love to take any pre-2000s Land Rover up through some of those trails.
This story was incredible, the pictures were sooo amazing as well, kudos to you and great job! That overhead shot of the FJ by I think the remains of Spirit Lake was just incredible. Awesome stuff, I recently subscribed to the newsletter and now the Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. I can’t wait to tell my dad about it.
Good story, I was there, talk in our neighborhood was whether or not we were in the pyroclastic flow zone. When the mountain blew , I took my three children at the time to Florence Oregon on the coast so their little lungs wouldn’t be coated with the silica from the ash To this day you can still find ash in the gutters 100 miles away from that mountain if you like. Or you can buy an ashtray, do you remember ashtrays? Two or three stores along the route will be more than happy to sell you a souvenir of the volcano. The ash destroyed cars and any other mechanical apparatus that ingested that ash totally destroyed combustion engines. You had to cover your air filter with a ladies pantyhose ,shake it out every hour or so ! Interesting times for those that survived!
I read this article in the print edition a few weeks ago, and I tip my hat to those generous folks who willingly allow others to *ahem* "operate" their vehicles for pleasure. Personally, it would take a negotiated purchase price for me to let someone else drive my cars and trucks. They may not be special and perfect, but they are mine, and I only have myself to blame if something unfortunate should befall them. I have witnessed first hand (and it wasn't me!) what kind of abuse commercial rental vehicles can be put through; would a privately-owned example fare any better? I won't be the one to find out.
For some reason when I click on he pictures lately, they don't open up. And when they do I get a little picture with print under it, or just the print itself. I think there is something wrong with your site. My computer system is windows 10.