I was standing on a softball field in Selah, WA on that fateful morning. In left field, I faced the mountain, but could not see it (very large foothills blocked my view). What I could see was the ash plume coming our way, dark as death with lightning flashing in its eyes as the hot ash met the cool northwest morning. Strangely enough, none of us heard anything. I knew the weather forecast was for perfect weather, so I was quite puzzled by this dark, ominous cloud that was beginning to blot out the southwestern sky. Before the inning ended, the Sheriff pulled into the parking lot and over his loudspeaker broke the news none of us could believe.
Off we drove, back to our hotel in Yakima to wait out whatever was in store for us. Before we arrived at the hotel, day turned to night and stayed that way until the following morning. As we lay around the hotel, I had visions of Pompei; finding me 500 years from now, encased in ash, laying on my hotel bed with a beer in my hand.
|The heavy ash fallout after about 4 hours|
Well, it wasn't THAT bad, but all the roads back to Seattle were closed the next morning, so a long circumnavigated route via Goldendale, Portland and up I5 would finally lead us back home. The I5 bridge over the Toutle River was restricted to one lane each way. Debris from the eruption was jammed up against the bridge supports and they ended up closing the bridge completely 10 minutes after we crossed.
I have visited the park since that day. To see the result of the awesome power that was released is humbling. Sometime after the eruption, scientists who were exploring the devastation found gophers alive and well in the blast zone, saved by their deep burrows. I don’t think a Holiday Inn would have sufficed! The circle of life never ceases to amaze me.