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Your Reflections On The 40th Anniversary Of The Mount St. Helens Eruption

AP Images
Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980.


On Sunday, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted. The volcanic blast and its after effects killed 57 people and caused millions of dollars of damage, sending ash and sulphuric acid into Idaho, Oregon and across Washington. 



"Every year when St. Helens Day comes along, I think of Dave [Johnston] and I think of the eruption." - listener and retired geologist Mark Utting

To look back on that historic day, Idaho Matters called up Norm Gunning, former assignment manager at KOIN-TV in Portland. You might recognize his voice from his time as a volunteer here at Boise State Public Radio. He’s joined by his former journalism colleagues Carol Thomas-Koon and Bill Diez. 

And we asked you to send us your stories of the day Mount St. Helens blew, and you did. One story was from an eye witness account from Mark Utting, a retired geologist who lives in Boise. He tells us the story of his friend, David Johnston, the USGS geologist who died from the eruption: 




And listener Scott Ross shared his experience of life in Spokane after the eruption, which has some interesting parallels to life these days during COVD-19: 


We also heard from listeners who wrote us about their memories from that day. Lois McDonald lived in Kennewick in 1980, and remembered a strange configuration of gray clouds after church that Sunday. Lisa Lombardi was a student at the University of Idaho, and told us how the Moscow Renaissance fair was cancelled as the sun was blotted out with ash. Tom von Alten managed to doge six inches of ash on a harrowing hitchhiking trek from Moscow to Anacortes. And Dave Peckham wrote that he could hear the blast all the way from his hammock south of Donnelly. Thanks to everyone who sent us their stories! 

Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters


Frankie Barnhill is the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast. She's always interested in hearing surprising and enlightening stories about life in the West. Have an idea for Idaho Matters? Drop her a line!