The eruption of Mt. St. Helens May 18, 1980 radically changed Sunday morning for many in the northwest.
KGW AM radio reporter Mike Beard cooked an omelet in his North Portland home. He heard a radio report that the mountain had activity.
"I could see Mt. St. Helens from my upstairs bedroom window," said Beard. "So I ran upstairs and stood on my tip toes and looked out the window---and--I said---MY GOD! I mean it was unbelievable. It looked like a nuclear bomb had gone off---except bigger!" Beard said.
He grabbed his tape recorder and mic and ran out the door, yelling to his wife he didn't know when he'd be back. He worked four days straight without returning home.
Thirty years later he clearly remembers the incredible sights. "It was just this huge roiling gray, thick cloud that was moving, there was this constant movement and it just filled the sky to the north of the city. Never seen anything like it. And in fact, nobody had. Nobody alive had ever seen anything like that in the lower 48!" said Beard.
KGW TV anchorman Pete Schulberg slept soundly that morning until the ringing phone jolted him out of bed. "I got a call from the station and said---get in here now. And I said why---and the gentleman from the station who called me said look out the window. And I looked out the window and said---I'll be right in!" said Schulberg.
Beard and Schulberg and all the news crews in the city covered the story non stop that day. As more information came in Schulberg remembers thinking Harry Truman, a man who lived on the mountain and had refused to leave, was probably dead. "The realization that there were going to be a lot of people killed because of that eruption---that was something that hit hard," said Schulberg.
The impact spread far and wide.
At the rose garden in Portland's West Hills many remember the blast. Wanda Cogswell told how she played for a women's soccer team. They'd gathered on a field in Damascus for a team picture on the morning of the 18th. The photographer spotted the eruption and forgot the team. "--and she---it was a woman---started taking pictures of the explosion of Mount Saint Helens. And we never did get our team picture taken," said Cogswell.
Kristal Hassler remembers being afraid on her family's farm in Central Washington. "And I can remember out riding our horses---cause we were checking the cows cause it was all of a sudden like it was going to rain--like a storm. So we put the horses in the barn and sort of waited and realized it was the mountain that blew up ---and there was ash everywhere and the sky turned really dark," said Hassler.
Lee and Nancy Hill remember the ash made it all the way to their home in Colorado. "Out in Eastern Colorado where I was working at the time ---you never did see the sun like you normally see it. It'd just be a red ball. And that's the way it was all summer," said Lee Hill.
Its clear the passing of the decades have not dimmed the memories of those who lived through the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Just ask the former radio reporter, Mike Beard. "Oh yah a day I'll always remember. It was arguably the story of the century in the Pacific Northwest," said Beard.