32 Years After Mount St. Helens Opened A Big Can of Whoop-Ass On Us.

May 18, 2012


Today marks the 32-year anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, in southern Washington State.  What follows is a chronology of some of the more note-worthy moments:

Look at it. So quiet. So serene. Juuuust waiting for you to forget it’s even there. Just forget about the little old mountain for 10 or 20 thousand years and KABLAM-O.

July 9, 38,000 BC – Mount St. Helens forms, beginning a devious plot to erupt and destroy the area towns.

August 15, 1979 – As per the Law of Disaster Movies, a young volcanologist runs in to USGS headquarters demanding that they listen to him!  That Mount St. Helens is building toward an eruption! And then is laughed out of the room by the arrogant, foolish, corporate stooge scientists.

October 3, 1979 – The public in the southern Washington region is warned that an eruption could occur at any time.  “What should we do if it does?” the public asks.  “Do?” the USGS replies.  “I don’t know.  It’s a volcano.  Die, probably?”  “Well, gee, thanks for the warning,” the public sneers sarcastically.

February 19, 1980 – Jill Gustavson of Olympia punches her husband in the face after he shakes the dinner table and yells, “Oh my God, it’s the eruption!” one too many times.

April 10, 1980 – Massive avalanches on the mountain are declared “totally awesome” by skiers in the area.

Well, even if it does erupt, I’ve got my trusty umbrella…

April 30, 1980 – Scientists warn that the giant “cryptodome” bulge on the north face indicates that eruption is all but inevitable.  A concerned populace tries desperately to not visualize a gigantic, mountain-sized zit.

May 2, 1980 – 83-year-old Harry Randall Truman refuses to evacuate the area, opting to stay in his cabin at the base of the mountain, thus satisfying the “crusty old-timer who ain’t a-goin’ nowheres” clause of the natural disaster contract.

May 15 – My friend Amanda’s birthday takes place, which I always think is the 18th because I remember that one’s the 15th, and one’s the 18th so I always remember it a couple days late.  One of the many tragic stories of the volcano’s aftermath.

May 17, 1980 – Public pressure forces authorities to let loggers to continue working the forest in the region, and to let tourists come look around the steaming, bulging, shaking volcanic peak.  This is true.  People are idiots.  This is also true.

May 18, 1980 – 8:31am.  A scientist taking measurements on the mountain sees that a massive slide has occurred down the north face, indicating eruption is imminent.  “Incredible,” he mutters.  Followed shortly by: “Oh, shit.”

“Um, excuse you?” “That wasn’t me. I’m pretty sure that was a volcanic eruption.” “Oh.”

8:32am – A massive eruption occurs.  The eruption is so loud it is heard by a little boy in central Oregon who hears it and thinks, “Someday I’ll blog about this.”  This, many argue, is the most dramatically significant moment of the eruption.

8:37am – Suddenly believing that his family will be consumed in ash, as the people in Vesuvius were, Albert DelJohns tries to get his family to contort into bizarre poses, so that when the archeologists find their ashen casts centuries on it’ll be “totally hilarious.”  He is voted down.

8:42am – Ash has already been blasted 12 miles in to the air.  Andrea Thompson of Yakima wins her “How quickly with the plume reach the 10-mile mark” office pool with her guess of 9 minutes, beating out the next closest guess of “What the hell’s wrong with you, Andrea?  Get the in the damn shelter!”

9:07am – School’s canceled!  Yaaaay!

12:31pm – The eruption continues, unabated. This being the Pacific Northwest, jaded hipsters talk about being “in to the volcano before it got all mainstream.”

4:51pm – The eruption, finally abating, is the equivalent of 20,000 atomic blasts.  Mother Earth is all like, “Oh, did I interrupt your big, tough arms race?  I’m sorry.  Don’t mind my awesome power.”

Most of the damage appears to be at the front of the vehicle, indicating – Mr. Wykes – that you ran in to the volcano, not the other way around.

May 19 – Roger Wykes attempts to report the destruction of his car after it is crushed under ash and debris.  The insurance company argues ‘driver fault’ for failing to yield to the volcano.

May 23 – A second eruption takes place.  Most critics agree the eruption is purely derivative of the first.  Unnecessary, they say, gratuitous and simply trying to cash in on earlier success.

October 2004-2008 – St. Helens becomes active again before quieting down at long last.  The mountain goes oh so quiet.  “Nothing to see here,” it assures the public.  “Just a little ol’, quiet mountain.”

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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60 Comments on “32 Years After Mount St. Helens Opened A Big Can of Whoop-Ass On Us.”

  1. Catherine Johnson Says:

    Thanks for the thorough and thoroughly humorous anniversary round up of Mount St. Helens!


  2. Life in the Boomer Lane Says:

    Wow, Byronic, I probably would have gotten through this entire day without knowing how special it was. I’m thinking a lot of adolescent boys can probably relate to Mr Gustavson.


  3. psychowatcher Says:

    “9:07am – School’s canceled! Yaaaay!”
    I can relate.


  4. Valentine Logar Says:

    I was up in Seattle at the time. We had Ash Parties. For two years after (at least) the hot thing was pottery and jewelry made for Mt St Helens Ash.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I remember a family friend had a vial of ash from inside the crater that he gave me. I don’t know what it different from the ash around the crater, but I was excited.


  5. She's a Maineiac Says:

    And the moral of this story is….school was cancelled! yay!

    “hipsters were way into the volcano before it got all mainstream”–yup, that sums up Washington state in a nutshell.

    Hysterical post, B-man.


  6. pithypants Says:

    Now I’m curious: what does a volcano eruption sound like? And did you know immediately that it was a volcano? Or was it like when a car backfires and you think there’s a gun fight in your neighborhood?


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, we were far enough away that it was just a small boom followed by a faint rumble. But everyone was waiting for the eruption, so we all immediately looked for the ash to rise in to the sky.


  7. MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

    Your car insurance assessment will have me laughing all day, “you ran into the volcano…”TOO MUCH !


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Of course a REAL insurance company would never be so crass as to say something like that. Or like “yes, you have hurricane insurance, but the hurricane didn’t destroy your house, it was the flood caused by the hurricane.”


      • MJ, Nonstepmom Says:

        tehe – this really ‘hits home’ for me, I used to live on that little peninsula in WI that makes the state look like a mitten….anywho, we had neighbors whos property line extended 20 ft closer to the bay than ours & therefore their flood insurance was THOUSANDS more than mine; despite the actual house sitting as far back as mine. They totally got screwed ;(


  8. becomingcliche Says:

    I would like to see your account in ALL the science journals.


  9. shoes Says:

    This is the best time line of Mount St. Helens ever!

    My sister and I were blamed by our parents for the ruckus the mountain caused – yelling at us to “stop banging on the walls!” We immediately stopped and went off to watch the Smurfs.


  10. susielindau Says:

    I often get birthdays mixed up with volcanic eruption dates…. 🙂


  11. Maggie O'C Says:

    Remember how it snowed ash for weeks? I believe my ex-husband has a Christmas ornament with ash in it. It’s also Shannon Meehan’s birthday. 32 years ago…shite I’m old.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I don’t know if you saw it in time, but I originally said it was 22 years ago in my post, until someone kindly pointed out that I’m stupid and old and bad at math.


      • Maggie O'C Says:

        Oh I saw it…hahaha. But I read the whole damn post and didn’t blink an eye that you wrote 22 years. That sounds right b/c if it were 32, that would make me 47 and how the hell could that be?

        Are you still in Central Oregon? Going to Sunriver for Memorial Day…just in time for the sun to go away.


  12. pegoleg Says:

    Harry Randall Truman was heard to say “The lava stops here.” Right before it covered him and his cabin.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I wonder what the odds are that he actually stayed stoic and resigned. I mean, it’s a volcano. The toughest person on the planet might be inclined to panic amidst earthquake, fire, smoke, ash and roars


  13. tomwisk Says:

    History shows again and again how nature points up the follies of men. Okay, that was Godzilla, but you get the point. We’re at the top of the food chain? Mother Nature has something to say about that.


  14. gojulesgo Says:

    I guess I shouldn’t tell Amanda I got a whole birthday POST. A day early.

    “The ‘crusty old-timer who ain’t a-goin’ nowheres’ clause of the natural disaster contract.” Ha! Of course. Who could forget that clause?


  15. 1pointperspective Says:

    Amusing AND informative! Like Cronkite and Costello, only with prettier pictures.


  16. Angie Z. Says:

    Awesome post, especially the May 15th side note about your friend Amanda’s birthday. Is that a weird coincidence or what because I still remember learning about Mount St. Helens in 5th grade. In the middle of the discussion, a (rather dim-witted) girl from Arkansas named Amanda raised her hand to say, “My grandma’s name is Helen.” Not kidding.


    • Elyse Says:

      Angie, this made me howl. Isn’t there always someone who says something like that? Shouldn’t we be allowed to tape their mouths shut?


      • Angie Z. Says:

        Yes, I wish we could, Elyse. I have so many great Amandaisms. I’d love to do a blog post on her. I can’t bring myself to do it because, even if I change her name, anyone who ever met her will be able to guess her true identity.


        • Elyse Says:

          Actually, I have often thought that I should set up a “mystery blog” for people to post stuff that they want to write but can’t for fear of offending someone who might read and/or know the offending person.

          I would be freshly pressed on a daily basis!


          • Angie Z. Says:

            Great idea, Elyse. You should be a billionaire by now. You know that, don’t you?


          • The Byronic Man Says:

            I agree that this is a terrific idea. Sometimes an “alias” isn’t enough. “What?? You thought my story about Marcy who drinks too much and is an embarrassment to go in to public with was about you? Darcy, that’s nuts! Please stop yelling and sit down. No, I’m sure your drink will wash right out of those people’s clothes.”


            • Elyse Says:

              I thought of it at the holidays when I wanted to rant about my in-laws, but couldn’t because some of them read my blog. Just often enough that I keep them out of it!


  17. Elyse Says:

    Bryonic, this is one of your best, math not included. But, well, this is my favorite bit: “Incredible,” he mutters. Followed shortly by: “Oh, shit.”


  18. itssrijana Says:

    yippee!.. i was not born then and where IS st helena..i think i spelled that correctly


  19. Michelle at Motley News Says:

    Are you the boy in Oregon that felt it and would blog about it later in life?

    BTW… I hiked up St Helen’s to the top in 1988 – the first year they opened it back up after the eruption. Pretty cool view! Could see the smoking lava dome down in it.


  20. racheldeangelis Says:

    Oh man! Someone ripped off your idea of writing about Mount St. Helens and got Freshly Pressed! What a jerk! 😛 I read both posts, and yours was BY FAR more entertaining.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I saw that. That one was bogged down with “facts” and “information.” Psh. It is tough in this case not to be one of those commenters who goes to an FP post and says, “Hi, great post. I wrote on something similar. Here’s the link!”


  21. benzeknees Says:

    I lived in Winnipeg, Man., Canada when Mount St. Helens erupted. We had ash even there a few days later. I’m glad I didn’t live in Alberta then! Thanks for the history lesson, us Byromaniacs must stay informed if we’re going to be a good influence on Kidney Beane (for the feminine)!


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