Story #18: Like a cannon – in Port Angeles

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By Janet Kailin

I’m a retired Olympic ranger. I climbed Mount St. Helens in 1975 as a youngster, 20 or 21. I was on top, it was all snow-covered, and there was a little hollow where the caldera (crater) would have been. I stood there thinking, “Oh, this is a volcano. It could theoretically erupt.”

By Jack Hughes (Janet’s husband)

I’m a retired district ranger. I transferred from Yellowstone to the Olympic National Park in 1965. Initially, I was stationed up the Elwha Valley. The morning that Mount St. Helens blew up, I was home in Port Angeles. The initial explosion sounded like dynamite or a cannon going off, but I knew it was Mount St. Helens because it was acting up and building up. It was a logical assumption. And it rattled the patio windows.

I had climbed St. Helens a few years before that. We climbed it from the Spirit Lake side in the winter. We were training for a climb of Mount Rainier, and we stopped and got some snacks at Harry Truman’s place before we went up to the summit.

Don’t forget the steam! On the morning of the eruption, I went up to Hurricane Ridge and sat out on the patio of the lodge. To the south, we could see what looked like a huge, grey, cumulus cloud rising up above the Olympic Mountains. We watched it go up thousands of feet and slowly go back down. It seems like all that afternoon I could hear booms, followed by the puff of an ash cloud.

I also heard that the State Patrol drove around, and it was humongous what was going on. They would ruin their engines from the intake of ash, just literally burn out their engines. They would carry spare air filters with them and stop and change air filters now and then, and that prolonged their engine life. But aside from a light dusting of ash over the next couple of days, basically it passed us by in Port Angeles.

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Now & Then here and now

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