These photos (taken May 18, 1980 about 12:00 p.m. show the billowing clouds which many described as beautiful. However, this was before they unloaded on us, dumping a gray disgusting ash on our entire town.
It was 1:00 P.M. and as the city's street lights were coming on, and we were definitely beginning to show concern. The ash was falling all around us, covering everything in gray. Most of us gathered our family and went home to listen for news and explanation. We turned on the TV and radio, listened, wondered, worried. What is happening? Is the ash dangerous? When will it stop falling? And the most asked question, "Will it still be dark in the morning?"
(and in the meantime, our daughter's cat was delivering kittens in a drawer in her room!)
It was in the morning, May 18, 1980, that an eruption, in the south western part of the the state, would release an immense landslide of superheated gas and rock, with a fifteen-mile high plume of ash. Did we even know about it, or were we concerned after we did hear about it, and did we even think that it could affect our town? No! Although some said later that they heard the blast, most of us were not even aware of the impact the explosion would have on Lind and we just surmised that life would go on as usual. Not so! I was standing in my neighbor's yard and we briefly talked about the billowing clouds that appeared to be coming our way. They sure didn't resemble the dust clouds or rain clouds that we were used to, but in all reality, they caused us no real concern. I do remember, however, that we half-way joked that just maybe the end was near. In the meantime, we were not aware what had happened now did we realized the eruption would cause the death of 57 people, destroy two hundred and fifty homes, and spread fury across many states. And like all small towns, word quickly spread. We later learned that the eruption was considered the most destructive volcanic event in U. S. history at that time.
Thanks to Gladie Nagamitsu and Katie Gassett for the beautiful pictures
On May 19, everyone wandered around evaluating the situation. I remember the birds, perched on their branches and not making a sound. A trip to the FFA barns was a different story. With a lot of FFA pigs, it would seem they'd be confused too. However, they loved the ash and were running around, sliding & playing in the gray ash. The rest of the town was totally quiet. Many were driving around trying to assess the damage, and a few decided to start the clean-up. Washing off the side walks seems to be the common goal, then removing the heavy ash from the shrubs was next. Found out very quickly that the 'stuff' didn't wash away like dirt from a dust storm. It was heavy and just got heavier with the added water. It was going to be a monumental job for the little town. And so it began.
Farmers started bringing in equipment and the the community went to work. Kids volunteered to sweep (scoop) off roofs, and help clean up yards. And every day seemed the same. The town's community members were all doing the same thing. Trying to clean yards and streets was tough enough, but then where do you put the stuff? It was scooped to the center of the streets, and then hauled to rock pits east of town where it would eventually be buried. Every evening, many met down town at the Golden Grain Cafe or one of the taverns to have a cold beer and discuss their day. Even after the long and tiring days, everyone had a story to tell. Lots of stories were passed around for the next few weeks. And through it all, we still had a sense of humor and saw some kind of a light at the 'end of our tunnel.' Other than a few sore muscles and unsolvable issues, the town didn't fold under the pressure, nor did they whine when they realized that the National Guard would be in Lind ONLY to clean the ash off the schools.Events were canceled, & school was dismissed for the rest of the year. The rodeo was canceled, Lions Club was dismissed for the summer, Tredecim Club quit meeting, and the community concentrated on their property and the town. Did they ever get done? No, not really, but they worked hand in hand enough to be able to carry on each day. Seems there were good things, too. No one was hurt or injured in the fallout. The wheat crops were excellent that summer, and everyone learned basically the same lesson. The logical question of the day after clean-up was, "What would you do differently if it happened again?" And the basic answer, "I'd clean my roof before I cleaned my yard.".
Currently, many of the trees and foliage around the mountain has returned. The houses that were once homes remain hidden under the ash, and at first glance, you'd think it was as barren as the moon. However, life has sprouted once again around that mountain. Scientists have since watched elk and deer wander back into the blast zone, and dogwoods have grown from the seeds hidden in the roots of the trees seemingly destroyed 39 years prior. Lupines have sprouted on what we'd consider barren ground. But, rock and the cooled ash still remains buried deep in the fall out. The story of the eruption will be told over and over through many generations. And, I'm sure the stories will surely grow! It was an experience. And once is enough.
The old swimming pool
Crews get started on a never ending job!
In 1982, it was only two years since Mt. St. Helens left her gray calling card and buried the Town of Lind in tons of ash. Most of it had been removed, at least the top layer, but signs of it remained on the sides of the roads and in flower beds, under shrubs, under rocks, and just about every place. It menacingly loomed behind cars and trucks on all country roads. (Even today, Adams County winds manage to leave reminders of the ash fallout throughout our homes.) The local Tredecim Club, a woman's community organization, voted to have welcome signs place at both Lind entrances on highway 395. They sponsored a contest to "design the welcome sign", and Tredecim member, Geri Webster, presented her plan and won the contest. McBee Signs in Moses Lake painted them and with the help of the Lind Lions Club, the signs were placed on Highway 395. They immediately drew the attention of many travelers, and specifically some college students from a nearby University, EWU. After a long weekend, (probably studying) the students decided that the signs would make an adequate table in their apartment at school. (Again, probably a study table!) However, they were soon persuaded to return the signs to their rightful owners, and within a couple of weeks, the signs were reassembled and reattached to the bracing poles....good as new! Just recently, new signs were made and erected on highway 395, and not mentioning Mt. St. Helens. After all, most of Lind's younger community members weren't even born when the mountain erupted....so the signs had to be updated...Out with the old and in with the new! However, those of us who experienced the fall-out experience are thankful that no one was hurt in the entire event or during cleanup. Oh most had sore muscles from sweeping the ash, tearing out shrubs, digging holes to bury the stuff, etc. But, after weeks of cleaning, we pretty much went back to our normal lives. Did we get rid of the ash? Heck no! To this day we often find remnants of it under shrubs and in ditches, etc. It's just always gonna be there as a reminder to us...to never forget when the majestic mountain 'blew her mind' and showered us in her anger.