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A Survivor’s Tale: “Half the mountain exploding over our heads”

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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One thing I love about blogging is hearing from readers, especially readers who have intriguing tales to tell. A bit ago, Timo5150 left a tantalizing clue that one such tale might prove extra-intriguing:

I was living just outside Randle Washington when it erupted, 20.2 miles from it. From there it was more of a low rumble that you more felt than heard. The ash got so thick even indoors that for awhile we thought we would suffocate. I wrote about our experience on Squidoo if you would like to read about what it was like. Just search for surviving Mt. Saint Helens.

And so I did, and promptly ended up perched on the edge of my chair:

On the morning of May 18th, I was in the groggy, lethargic state between being asleep and fully waking when I hear my wife get out of bed saying she thought her father (who also lived on the ranch) was leaving because she thought she heard a car rumble. When she reached the kitchen and looked out the window she let out a heart-stopping, blood-curdling scream that sounded like she was witnessing the end of the world, as I am sure she thought she was. It brought me straight up out of my bed and I ran to the kitchen to see what all the screaming was about. What I saw I will never forget for the rest of my life. It looked like the world was coming to an end. The sky was filled with very dark heavy clouds that were boiling and rolling towards us at a very high rate of speed with the biggest, thickest bolts of lightning I have ever seen. There is nothing I can compare it to. In one sense it was awesome, but in another, it was terrifying. What we later learned was that what we were witnessing half the mountain exploding over our heads but it looked like half the world.

There’s much, much more. It’s an amazing glimpse into what it’s like to have a mountain blow up all over you. Thank you, Timo5150, for sharing your story!

Mount St. Helens in eruption. Aerial view of eruptive column which is very dark. Top of Mount St. Helens is obscured by clouds. 0935 PDT. Skamania County, Washington. May 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Mount St. Helens in eruption. Aerial view of eruptive column which is very dark. Top of Mount St. Helens is obscured by clouds. 0935 PDT. Skamania County, Washington. May 18, 1980. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Dana Hunter About the Author: Dana Hunter is a science blogger, SF writer, and geology addict whose home away from SciAm is En Tequila Es Verdad. Follow her on Twitter: @dhunterauthor. Follow on Twitter @dhunterauthor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. timo5150 12:35 pm 02/1/2013

    Thanks for sharing Dana. When we post our stories its in hopes that someone reads, likes and maybe gets something from the story but just because we post it does not necessarily mean it gets seen, so you sharing it here is appreciated.

    Link to this

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