Today marks the 35-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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”