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Memories of St. Helens --- Thirty Years Later

Like Mike M, I was on the Wenatchee River the day St. Helens unleashed a cloud of ash that blanketed much of the western half of Washington. Orion River Rafting http://orionexp.com was busy with two large commercial rafting trips headed down the river.

In the morning, as we were prepping rafts at our launch site off U.S. 2, we heard what we assumed was a detonation by a highway crew doing road work, or avalanche control, or a peal of thunder from high in the Stuart Range. The day was cloudless, sunny and warm, and with everything else going on, we thought nothing of the one-shot rumble.

I led the first wave of rafts because I was scheduled to appear on a KIRO radio show that evening in Seattle and needed to get off the river as early as possible. As the rafts approached our take-out in Cashmere, I recall noting thunderclouds massing to the east and seemingly headed up the Valley.

I remember thinking how odd that weather was approaching us from the east. I also remember thinking how strangely ominous and dark this storm front looked. Being on the river all day, we had no way of knowing of the eruption of St. Helens. It wasn't until I was halfway up Stevens Pass that I got the word of the volcanic cataclysm, and then I was fortunate because Stevens was the only pass still open (other than Washington Pass on Highway 20).

Our second float on the Wenatchee River was not so fortunate. They were plagued by lightly falling ash and were forced to float downstream backwards to keep the ash at bay.

My interview on KIRO that Sunday evening was intended to be a 2-hour discussion of whitewater rafting and my company, Orion. But it was a good news/bad news scenario --- the whole Pacific Northwest was tuned into KIRO because they were noted for their news updates --- it was a publicity coup in that regards.

However, the seriousness of the situation precluded folks from focusing on rafting and almost 100% of the phone-in callers wanted to talk about the eruption of St. Helens.

In other words, an inanimate object upstaged me during my brief, ephemeral 15 minutes of fame.

in reference to: Memories of Mount St. Helens on the 30th Anniversary (1980-2010): Part 2 [Eruptions] | sciencestage.com (view on Google Sidewiki)

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