May 18, 1980: Mount St. Helens eruption

On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted into the Pacific Northwest’s most cataclysmic event in recorded history. The blast killed 57, forced thousands to leave their homes and sent a thick cloud of ash across three states; trace amounts were found around the world.

The Herald went to press the next day:

“The explosion early Sunday knocked 1,300 feet off the top of the once pristine 9,677-foot peak, which until March had been quiet since 1857.

‘It looks like the aftermath of an atomic explosion,’ said Dwight E. Reber, a pilot for Columbia Helicopters, Inc. of Aurora, Ore.

Ash and flows of gas and newly formed rock poured from the mountain Sunday.

Earlier today, a mile-wide wall of mud was seen oozing down the north fork of the Toutle River snapping concrete and steel bridges like toothpicks and sweeping cars and houses in its wake.”

Thirty years later, The Herald asked readers to recall the day of the blast.

Reporter Bill Sheets wrote:

“The Herald asked readers to share their recollections of the day Mount St. Helens exploded, killing 57 people, causing massive damage and generating an ash cloud that traveled around the world in 15 days. Some ventured into the blast zone. Others heard a loud boom, saw the ash cloud or both. Others had ash raining down around them. None of them will ever forget that day.”

One reader spoke about the ash cloud:

“Every time you took a breath it would stick to your throat or get stuck in your nose. At that point I started to go into shock,” he said. “You couldn’t see anything. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

Take a look at the May 18, 1980 edition of The Herald in our collection of historic front pages.

Or look through photos of the blast in our gallery.

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Shock from WSU suicide ripples through Snohomish County

Roughly 1 in 10 seniors, sophomores and 8th-graders said they had attempted to take their own lives.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has appealed for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-runs in the state.

$1,000 reward for info on who killed an eagle near Snohomish

After being shot, the raptor was treated at the Sarvey Wildlife Center but died overnight.

Woman confronts man leaving house with stolen item

“He swung at her with a crowbar, missing her.”

Police seek suspect in Wells Fargo bank robbery

He was described as white, in his 30s, heavyset, with blonde hair and a maroon sweatshirt.

Possible bobcat sighting keeps Snohomish students inside

The creature was spotted on the campus of Valley View Middle School around noon.

Stabbing in Everett follows dispute between brothers-in-law

The victim, 54, was hospitalized. The suspect, 29, had not been apprehended Thursday.

Most Read