May 18, 1980, The Week After
Mount St. Helens blew up 43 years ago yesterday. The week that followed was like no other I have lived through. In this blog I share my testimony and end with some thoughts about how this applies now.
1980 Eruption Of Mount St. Helens
The link here is to the Wikipedia article on the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. If you are unfamiliar with that event you can read about it there.
At the time I was a 2nd year student at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. I had not worked during my first year of school. At the start of my 2nd year I applied for work in the dining hall of my dorm.
Because of experience working in a camp kitchen when I was younger I was put on as a student cook/chef. I basically skipped what would have been time in the dish room. That year I worked breakfast. The cafeteria served about 1150 people in the fall. By spring we were usually down to 800+ people. It was the freshman dorms and students moved to better quarters through the year.
Sunday, May 18
On Sundays we only served 2 meals, so breakfast was served at lunch time. I was in the kitchen by about 9:00 AM. I worked a 4 hour shift, mostly running the main grills.
There had been a series of eruptions on Mount St. Helens in the weeks leading up to that weekend. The first was on March 27. There were several others in April and earlier in May.
So I did not pay much attention when people started to ask if I'd heard about that morning's eruption. All the others had been curiosities, but nothing to take action on. This May 18 eruption was very different. It was much larger than all that had come before.
At about 8:30 AM that morning, a bulge on the north flank of the mountain collapsed. About 1200 feet of the mountain had gone up in a massive blast of steam. Hot mud had blasted away forests. Hot muddy water filled Spirit Lake and started flowing downstream towards the Columbia river.
The ash cloud created by that blast was slowly headed our way. This is what everyone was talking about.
Around noon I looked out the east facing windows of the kitchen's offices. The leading edge of the cloud was passing overhead. That day the sun slowly set in the east.
Once the serving lines were closed, I could leave the grills for a few minutes. I walked out into the main dining rooms. They all had large windows facing south. The building was on a hill and had a territorial view.
Our area was under a cloud of ash. All the street lights were on. But, to the distant south it was still daylight. It was obvious daylight would be lost there too. The heaviest part of the cloud had passed about 50 miles north of campus. Noticeable ash fall would stretch to Minnesota and Oklahoma, though fine bits of the cloud would circle the entire northern hemisphere.
While strange events were going on outside, I still had a job to do. I returned to the kitchen and cleaned the grills. When my shift was over I went back to my dorm room.
There was a very short outside walk to get back to the dorm. The ash was everywhere, like a fine dusting of snow. Nothing to worry about, or so everyone thought.
Monday, May 19th
Campus was open for classes at 7:00 on Monday morning. Few classes actually met that early, which was a good thing.
Students for those classes had left their dorms to a bright sunny day with a moonscape of volcanic ash all over everything. It was like fine snow, and the logic of the problem seemed simple. Most of the campus had been covered in snow for most of the winter. Everyone knows how to deal with snow. This was not even that deep, between 1/4 and maybe as much as 1/2 of an inch. No problem.
But, there was a problem. Ash particles fell out of the sky based on their weight and distance from the mountain. Nearer to the mountain the ash was like a heavy snow. The particles were large, more like an actual snowfall. Ash was deeper in places like Yakima, but could be handled like any heavy snowfall.
We were far enough away that the ash on the ground was a very, very fine dust. All it took to kick up a cloud was to step on the stuff.
The few students walking to 7:00 AM classes that morning kicked up quite a cloud.
University administration closed campus to classes by 8:00 AM. Classes would remain canceled until the following Monday. The entire campus would need to be hosed off, every square inch. Every vehicle that could carry water was eventually drafted for the task. Every fire hydrant was used. Because the dust did not stay on the ground it would take many weeks before it was fully cleared.
I got my first call around 9:00 AM. I was not scheduled to work, but they needed me to work lunch in an hour. I had never actually worked the grills for any meal other than breakfast. There would be no full time staff. Nobody who lived off campus could drive. The dust quickly clogged every vehicle's air filters.
Car air filters were not the only problem. By noon all rotating machinery on campus was ordered shut off. All exterior vents were ordered closed.
This meant no vent hoods over the grills. This also meant no building ventilation either. It was going to be a hot sweaty week. I was also going to figure out the more complex lunch menu, including 3 banks of rotisserie ovens on my own. Many hundreds of baked cheese fishwiches would soon become volcanos of their own, a crust raising story for another time. 800+ people still needed to be fed.
Tuesday, May 20
All of the food we served was ultimately sourced in Spokane, around 90 miles north of campus. All of our bread products were made in commercial bakeries in Spokane. Milk was supplied by dairies in Spokane. All fresh meats and fresh vegetables were supplied from Spokane. Everything frozen and everything canned or dry packaged also came by semi truck from suppliers in Spokane.
On campus there was a food warehouse and distribution center for all the cafeterias. That building broke down semi-truck shipments for local distribution around the campus. They had some stock, but not much. Being close to the end of the school year stocks were intentionally lower than in winter, when supply interruptions were expected.
The problem was that none of the trucks that brought food from Spokane were moving south. The roads were closed.
The US highway south from Spokane had been hit harder than campus. Nothing was moving through much deeper ash. Every vehicle tire kicked up a cloud and any following vehicles choked on the dust. The slightest wind also blew dust across the road.
The Washington State Patrol saw the problem immediately and were stranded. They quickly figured out how to jury rig air filters from Semis. They mounted semi filters on the front bumpers of their patrol cars. Then they ran dryer duct through the grill to the intake on the normal air filter. This allowed them some mobility. But, it would not work for the trucks themselves.
By Tuesday we were out of fresh vegetables. This meant no fresh salads.
We were also using up the last of our fresh milk products and fresh bread products.
The dining hall supervisor confided in me that word had been sent to the State of Washington that food needed to be delivered to campus by Thursday or else there would be nothing to serve anywhere on campus by Friday. She was already in triage mode, figuring out menu plans from remaining stocks.
Wednesday, May 21
By now there was some limited mobility on campus. The delivery trucks that usually ran between the main warehouse and cafeterias were now running between cafeterias. Cafeterias were horse trading cases of stuff to make the menus seem mostly normal.
Students coming in through our serving lines were wondering what was going on. No milk was the obvious problem. We were out of bread too. We were substituting mashed potatoes made from flakes, which was not a normal offering.
Thursday, May 22
I went downstairs with the dining hall supervisor. A room that would normally be stocked high with cases of canned goods was now nearly empty. She had me load the conveyor with most of the rest of the cases of food that were left.
On this day, there was not enough of anything for there to be a planned 'menu' in the normal sense for 800+ people. We cooked and served based on the leftover quantities we found in storage. Canned corn might be followed by french cut green beans and then followed by canned carrots. It was a very strange thing going on. Our main freezers with frozen beef and frozen chicken in various forms were also essentially emptied that day too.
Word came that the State Patrol was escorting the first convoy of Semis south from Spokane. This would be the first traffic south since Sunday. They were headed for the campus warehouse. The on campus delivery trucks would have supplies flowing out to all the cafeterias by Friday morning. Serious Trouble had been averted by 1 day.
Friday, May 23
Local roads were clear enough for our local full time kitchen staff to return to work. Everyone's work schedules instantly returned to normal. Because food had been delivered late the day before, menus also instantly returned to normal.
Some campus buildings were open, but classes resumed the following Monday. Most ventilating equipment would remain off until the following fall. Life had mostly returned to normal. All was suddenly well again.
I worked most shifts that week. They needed me. What else was I going to do? The semester stretched into early June in those days. So there were only 3 more weeks before campus would clear for the summer.
This was in the days before grade inflation. Most current college level students have no reference. College level grading and schedule for complete work was very strict in the days before the woke took over. Taking nearly a week off of classwork caused my grades to take a serious hit.
Most students used their week of time out of class to keep up on course work. I was working, but more importantly I was distracted by what I was seeing at work. I was seeing trouble that none of my friends wanted to talk about.
Because of that week, I was offered a supervisor job in that dining hall starting the next fall. I did that supervisor's job my 3rd and 4th years in school.
It was rare for a Junior to even be offered such a job. The pay was better. It was easier to schedule around class time. For the rest of my time on campus I worked 7 dinners in a 14 day rotating schedule. That work history made up for weak grades and helped considerably in getting a corporate job when I graduated.
I am writing this blog because events in Ukraine feel like Mt. St. Helens in the first few months of 1980.
That mountain burped and rumbled. It both delighted and frightened spectators. The experts were prognosticating from the mountain like it was a spectator sport. They did not understand that many of them would soon die.
There was a little prophetic going on too, but it was rare. A certain reporter from a TV station in Seattle awoke on that fateful morning with a premonition of what was to happen. He grabbed his cameraman and they drove south to the mountain. They barely lived to tell the story later that day.
Finally, the mountain blew up, just as everyone now remembers.
Because it was a Sunday and because the Governor of Washington had ordered much of the mountain closed, only 57 people died.
That day, the landscape forever changed. A forest was reduced to kindling. Spirit Lake's water level permanently rose 200 feet. Roads and bridges were destroyed. Rivers were plugged with mud. Dust and debris escaped the property by air. The normal routines of life came to a sudden stop for hundreds of miles.
Ukraine is doing the same now. The Ukrainian experts are as careless as those around the mountain in 1980. War is rumbling. Radiation from NATO's depleted uranium weapons is already showing up on various graphs. Those weapons are being destroyed in their depots by Russians. NATO, like Hitler before, is slowing going to war with Russia.
This is just like the mountain in the early months of 1980. The news is still entertainment. The prognosticators and reporters are still alive. Few people are taking the warnings seriously.
One day, nobody knows for sure when, the land of Ukraine will blow up. Ash and debris will escape the property. Radioactive dust will engulf the northern hemisphere. War itself will spread. Regular life across much of the northern half of the planet will stop. The landscape will be changed forever.
Unlike 1980, when the local government wanted to save life, these days western governments are run by a death cult. They celebrate destruction and do not work to save lives. If they remotely cared, they would have already stopped their war.
There is limited prophetic going on now too. Joshua is talking to those who will hear. Ryan and I are in the Seattle area now. Every time we let Joshua speak, almost daily, he reminds us that the Puget Sound region is like Sodom. It will be destroyed by fire from the sky. It is also like Noah and will be destroyed by water.
Once Joshua has made that point, he then goes on to regular business. We are in another strong prophetic season. Different subjects come in different places, which is why we are here.
I am running the 3d printers again. I am working on designing and building the first set of big classroom articles. Ryan has been in a strong season of understanding which editors were responsible for what parts of the OT. The entire set of filter tags is getting reviewed and reassigned. Ezra was the canonizer and takes the lion's share of the OT.
Ryan's work is showing up in the weekly app updates. My work will show up as bom.paleo.in models, though not for awhile. Most models going forward are like small, intricate, pieces of furniture. They take a considerable amount of time to print.
I have been given another 3d printer. The printer that I was rebuilding from parts is also now running. It printed its first successful test part earlier this week. Thank you all again for your kind support with this work.
We are looking for directions on leaving the Seattle area. No departure directions have come up so far. We would love to find a place where we could hold weekly meetings and practice explaining ourselves to a live audience. If you know of such a place please let us know.