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Posts Tagged ‘David A. Johnston’

Mount St. Helens, Washington

Posted by graywacke on August 14, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2453; A Landing A Day blog post number 889.

Dan:  First, let me apologize for my tardiness.  It has been more than two weeks since my last post.  Sometimes, life gets in the way of posting . . .

Anyway, today’s lat/long (N46o 16.816’, W121o 56.372’) puts me in SW Washington:

My local landing map shows that I landed a mere 14 miles NE of Mount St. Helens: 

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Elk Creek, which is part of the Clear Creek watershed:

Zooming back, we can see that the Clear Ck discharges to the Muddy River (1st hit ever!). 

The Clear Creek loses its soul when it hits the Muddy!  Anyway, the Muddy discharges to the Lewis River (also 1st hit ever!), on to the Mighty Columbia (170th hit).

Before moving on, a quick word about the Lewis River.  I bet you assumed (as I did) that it was named after Lewis from Lewis & Clark.  Well, listen up (from Wiki):

Unlike nearby Lewis County and Fort Lewis, the Lewis River was not named for Meriwether Lewis, but rather for A. Lee Lewis, an early settler who homesteaded near the mouth of the river.

Moving over to Google Earth, you can see that I was able to locate the Orange Dude fairly close to my landing:

And here’s what he sees:

The landing is down in a valley, about a thousand feet lower than the roadway . . .

The OD was anxious to get a look at my local drainage, so he found a spot to get a look at Clear Creek:

And here’s his upstream view:

His downstream view shows us many old logs:

If I had to guess, I’d say the logs are detritus from the eruption . . .

Did you notice some Street View blue lines up on the mountain?  Evidently, some Google Dude with a Google Cam hiked up to the summit!  And here’s the view, looking down towards the blown-out side of the mountain (with Mount Adams in the background):



Speaking of the blown-out side of the mountain, here’s a map showing the blast zone:

And here’s a GE shot, where you can still see all of the scars:

Staying with GE:


So.  I’ve written quite a bit about the geology of the Cascade volcanoes, and won’t do again now.  If you really want to learn about the regional geologic context of Mt. St. Helens and other volcanoes in the northwest, check out my Mt. Shasta post.  For a shorter version, try my White Swan and Mt. Adams post.

While I landed about 14 miles from MSH, I landing only 8.5 miles from Spirit Lake.  From Wiki:

Spirit Lake is a lake on the northern flank of Mount St. Helens in Washington State. The lake was a popular tourist destination for many years until the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Prior to 1980, there were six camps on the shore of Spirit Lake: a Boy Scout camp, a Girl Scout camp, two YMCA camps, Harmony Fall Lodge, and another for the general public. There were also a number of lodges catering to visitors, including Spirit Lake Lodge and Mt. St. Helens Lodge; the latter was inhabited by Harry R. Truman.

Of course, Harry Truman was Wiki-clickable; more about him in a bit.

Before 1980, this was quite the bucolic place:

Back to Wiki:

During the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Spirit Lake received the full impact of the lateral blast from the volcano. The blast and the debris avalanche associated with this eruption temporarily displaced much of the lake from its bed and forced lake waters as a wave as much as 850 ft above lake level. The debris avalanche deposited about 430,000,000 cubic meters of pyrolized trees, other plant material, volcanic ash, and volcanic debris of various origins into Spirit Lake.

Lahar and pyroclastic flow deposits from the eruption blocked its natural pre-eruption outlet to the North Fork Toutle River valley at its outlet, raising the surface elevation of the lake by approximately 200 ft. The surface area of the lake was increased from 1,300 acres to about 2,200 acres.

However, the deposition of volcanic material decreased the maximum depth of the lake from 190 ft to 110 ft.

The eruption tore thousands of trees from the surrounding hillsides and swept them into Spirit Lake. These thousands of shattered trees formed a floating log raft on the lake surface that covered about 40% of the lake’s surface after the eruption:

So, what about this Harry Truman guy?  From Wiki:

Harry R. Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) was the owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake near the foot of the mountain, and he came to fame as a folk hero in the months preceding the volcano’s 1980 eruption after he refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders.

Truman is presumed to have been killed by a pyroclastic flow that overtook his lodge and buried the site under 150 ft of volcanic debris.

[Oh, come on!  “Presumed to have been killed” ??  Give me a break  . . . ]

During the 1930s, Truman divorced his wife; he remarried in 1935. The second marriage was short, as he reportedly attempted to win arguments by throwing his wife into Spirit Lake, despite her inability to swim.  He began dating a local girl, though he eventually married her sister Edna, whom he called Eddie.  They remained married, operating the Mount St. Helens Lodge together until Edna’s death from a heart attack in 1978.

In the Mount St. Helens area, Truman became notorious for his antics, once getting a forest ranger drunk so that he could burn a pile of brush.  He poached, stole gravel from the National Park Service, and fished on American Indian land with a fake game warden badge. Despite their knowledge of these criminal activities, local rangers failed to catch him in the act.

Truman was a fan of the cocktail drink Schenley whiskey and Coca-Cola. He owned a pink 1957 Cadillac, and he swore frequently.  He loved discussing politics and reportedly hated Republicans, hippies, young children, and especially old people.

[Strange mix!]

When his wife Edna died in 1978, Truman closed his lodge and afterward only rented out a handful of boats and cabins during the summer.

Truman became a minor celebrity during the two months of volcanic activity preceding the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, giving interviews to reporters and expressing his opinion that the danger was exaggerated. “I don’t have any idea whether it will blow,” he said, “but I don’t believe it to the point that I’m going to pack up.”

Truman displayed little concern about the volcano and his situation: “If the mountain goes, I’m going with it. This area is heavily timbered, Spirit Lake is in between me and the mountain, and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain ain’t gonna hurt me.”

Law enforcement officials were incensed by his refusal to evacuate because media representatives kept entering the restricted zone near the volcano to interview him, endangering themselves in the process. Still, Truman remained steadfast. “You couldn’t pull me out with a mule team. That mountain’s part of Truman and Truman’s part of that mountain.”

Truman told reporters that he was knocked from his bed by precursor earthquakes, so he responded by moving his mattress to the basement. He scoffed at the public’s concern for his safety, responding to scientists’ claims about the threat of the volcano that “the mountain has shot its wad and it hasn’t hurt my place a bit, but those goddamn geologists with their hair down to their butts wouldn’t pay no attention to ol’ Truman.”

He caused a media frenzy, appearing on the front page of The New York Times and The San Francisco Examiner and attracting the attention of National Geographic, Time, Life, Newsweek, Field & Stream, Reader’s Digest, United Press International, and The Today Show.

A historian named Richard W. Slatta wrote that “his fiery attitude, brash speech, love of the outdoors, and fierce independence… made him a folk hero the media could adore.”  Truman was immortalized, according to Slatta, “with many of the embellished qualities of the western hero.”

As the likelihood of eruption increased, state officials tried to evacuate the area with the exception of a few scientists and security officials. On May 17, they attempted one final time to persuade Truman to leave, to no avail. The volcano erupted the next morning, and its entire northern flank collapsed.

Truman was alone at his lodge with his 16 cats, and is presumed to have died in the eruption on May 18.

[There they go again.]

The largest landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the landslide engulfed the Spirit Lake area almost simultaneously, destroying the lake and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris.

Truman emerged as a folk hero for his resistance to the evacuation efforts.  The Columbian wrote: “With his 10-dollar name and hell-no-I-won’t-go attitude, Truman was a made-for-prime-time folk hero.”

Truman’s friend John Garrity added, “The mountain and the lake were his life. If he’d left and then saw what the mountain did to his lake, it would have killed him anyway. He always said he wanted to die at Spirit Lake. He went the way he wanted to go.”

Truman’s niece Shirley stated, “He used to say that’s my mountain and my lake and he would say those are my arms and my legs. If he would have seen it the way it is now, I don’t think he would have survived.”  Truman’s cousin Richard Ice commented that Truman’s short period as a celebrity was “the peak of his life.”

Moving right along . . .

So.  Harry wasn’t pleased with those damned long-haired geologists.  Well, one of them was killed within seconds of when Harry was killed.  From Wiki:

Due to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, approximately 57 people were killed directly, including innkeeper Harry R. Truman, photographers Reid Blackburn and Robert Landsburg, and geologist David A. Johnston.

Mr. Johnston was Wiki-clickable:

David Alexander Johnston (December 18, 1949 – May 18, 1980) was an American United States Geological Survey (USGS) volcanologist who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. A principal scientist on the USGS monitoring team, Johnston was killed in the eruption while manning an observation post six miles away on the morning of May 18, 1980. He was the first to report the eruption, transmitting “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before he was swept away by a lateral blast.

[USGS personnel were in Vancouver, WA (about 50 miles SW of the mountain) monitoring the situation.]

Despite a thorough search, Johnston’s body was never found, but state highway workers discovered remnants of his USGS trailer in 1993.

Here’s a video of the eruption, viewed over 6 million times:


I’ll close with this photo posted on GE by Dave Smith:

That’ll do it . . .




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