May 18, 2018

RESPECT VOLCANOES:  On this day in 1980, Mount St. Helens blew its head off.  Fifty seven people were killed.  Among the dead was 30-year-old vulcanologist David A. Johnston, who was stationed as an observer on a ridge six miles away.  His famous last words were radioed:  “Vancouver!  Vancouver!  This is it!”  And indeed it was.

Over 230 square miles of vegetation and buildings were flattened.

It could have been worse.  Swarms of earthquakes had started in March.  Because of the work of people like Johnston, we knew enough about volcanoes at the time to close the park and tell people in the vicinity that this one was likely to get ugly and that they should get the heck out of there.  (There was apparently pressure not to close the park, but caution prevailed.)

One guy who refused to leave was 83-year-old innkeeper Harry R. Truman.  He’d lived nearby for 54 years.  Like Johnston’s, Truman’s body was never found.

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