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.

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