Where was I on May 18th, 1980? Yakima, Washington

It was 8:30 am…

It was already a dark morning as clouds filled the sky over Yakima. By the time we left McDonald’s a few short moments later, the sky on the western horizon was filled with more than clouds.

Stopping to fill the tank before our drive home along the Columbia River Gorge, the man at the gas station said he had heard there was a very large storm coming.

What was coming was black as night as its darkness was quickly filling up the sky as it rushed across the state.

As it drew closer, I remember seeing lightning bolts from within this dark cloud that was racing towards us. As a ten year old… this was a little scary as our car raced its way to the border and out of this cloud of darkness and its line of sight. We stopped several times to take a picture. By the time we arrived at Goldendale, we knew this was no ordinary storm. This was Mt. St. Helens.

Pulling over on the highway outside of Goldendale to take some pictures, we were not the only ones doing the same. Remarkably, there was a t-shirt vendor there hawking shirts that said… “I’m a Lava Lover… Mt.St.Helens, May 18th, 1980!”

Even to a ten year old, I thought that was amazing that someone had shirts already printed up along the highway not 45 minutes after the eruption.

Driving along the Columbia River Gorge that morning was a sight I will never forget.

Happy to be out of the ash clouds path, I was enamored at the sheer power of what was before my eyes as it seemed to like hover in the distance over what was already majestic setting within the gorge.

In a weird way, or maybe it was because of the enormity of it… life that day seemed to be lived in black and white. I don’t remember any color in the landscapes that painted my day. Maybe if I tried hard enough, I could remember the yellow in the golden arches over that McDonald’s we stopped at? Or, maybe I could see the green in the farmland between our stop to take a picture and buy a shirt between Goldendale and the Gorge?

If I could, they would be faded I am sure.

There are certain moments in life that warrant the question… where were you then?

This was one of those moments. Where were you on this day?

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9 responses »

  1. D Wilson says:

    I was in central Africa Zaire I was listening to world radio and it sounded like the northwest got blown off into the ocean I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get home.

  2. saphyreplatypus says:

    My little brother was born (on May 17th, 1980) just hours before the fateful blast. I remember being in the hospital on the 18th and every television and radio was tuned into the news of what was happening. I was only a year and a half old myself at the time, but I remember the ash cloud and the panic amongst the nurses.
    I got a shirt that said “Blow your top” Mt St. Helens 1980. I still have that shirt.

  3. GC Hoskins says:

    I lived in Yakima at the time – but was on a band trip to Victoria BC, Canada. I remember we heard the explosion from there. It took us 3 or 4 days to get back home – which we weren’t sure what or if we had a home when we got back. News media, in the very beginning, made everything sound so bleak. We got as far as North Bend, WA and had to stay because of road closure (I-90 & I-82). When we finally were on our way (my family) and got over into Eastern Washington, we couldn’t believe our eyes. It was a long and very slow drive, because the ash was clogging the air filter. The aftermath – I remember the clean up, the art work made for ash, the parks that were built on top of Mt. Saint Helens ash

  4. Dennis Hoff says:

    Just going to church at Dover Community – could see the ash cloud from the front porch of the church.

  5. gunsim says:

    thanks so much everybody for sharing where you were! crazy how fast time seems to have gone.

  6. James Panter says:

    I was in White Pass, Tieton Pond before the millfoil infested it. It was morning and we were eating bologna sandwiches when it started to rain dirt. Parents said “uh-oh, Mt St Helens” we drove down to Trout Lodge on Highway 12 in complete darkness. We waitied there about an hour and drove back into Yakima. We stopped a few times to shake out the air filter in the car and continued on home. The air looked gloomy and totally dark, kind of like storm weather. Visibility was about 100 yards and everything had an ugly tinge to it. Odd colored lightning. Car never had any problems, we didn’t have any problems. Fell asleep when we got home, it was completely dark after all. Woke up the next day and washed the ash of the roof of the house. Got out of school for a few days. I was 10 years old.

  7. tim gomez says:

    I was 14 that sunday morning myself and a fue friends were at the park on 16th and lincoln ave. we went into the cinder block bathroom(could’nt see outside from inside) and drank some cold duck and smoked a couple joints getting geared up for a fun afternoon playing frisbie. when we walked in the restroom it was warm and sunny we came out and it was dark our first thoughts were what was in that weed? we ran down the hill to lincoln ave there was a police car driving slow announcing to stay in side cover mouth when outside so not to breath in dust. confused I ran home about 3/4 miles and seen on tv that mt st.helens blew. I was worried at home alone not sure what to expect, but all turned out well. I also recall on the news people were clearing off the shelves at safeway and albertsons like the world was comming to an end. I never drank anymore cold duck after that but did’nt scare me off weed? made good money over the next couple weeks sweeping shoveling and hauling that ash.

  8. gomez says:

    i was at the park on the corner of 16th and lincoln ave myself and a couple friends went into the cinder block restroom it had no view of the outside we drank cold duck and smoked a couple joints we were inside the restroom for about 1/2 hour or longer? when we came out of the restroom it was dark outside and the ash was falling our first thoughts were what was in that weed? then we walked down the hill onto lincoln ave a police car was driving slow talking over his p.a. to stay inside and if you have to be outside cover you mouth with a cloth or mask this just confussed us more being in the condion we were in with the cold duck and weed so we split and went to our homes i turned on the t.v. and they were telling all about mt.saint helens. i never drank cold duck again but did’nt scare me off the weed. i recall seeing on the news people at safeway and albertsons were clearing off the shelves like it were the end of the world. I made some good money sweeping shoveling and hauling that ash. wow that was 31 years ago i was just a 14 year old pup then.

  9. gomez says:

    oh by the way i was in yakima

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