Today in History: May 18

At 8:32:17 a.m. PDT on May 18, 1980, an earthquake took place directly under Mount St. Helens, the only non-dormant volcano in the lower 48 states. It shook off the entire north face of the mountain. This was and remains the largest landslide in recorded history.

As the top of the mountain slid off, the molten rock and steam inside the volcano was exposed to cooler air; when this happened, the mountain exploded and a column of ash rose 80,000 feet in the air (about 15 miles) and mudslides reached 50 miles away. Because the volcano had started to become seismically active about two months before, a vast area around the mountain had been evacuated. Fifty-seven people perished nonetheless.

Before the eruption, the summit of Mount St. Helens was 9,677 feet high; now, the mountain is 8,363 feet tall. A 2000-foot deep crater is what remains of its north face.

Mount St. Helens remains a non-dormant volcano, however. The magma under Mount St. Helens is accumulating once again and earthquakes continue to proliferate: a “swarm” of earthquakes has been detected in 2016.

A video about photographing the dangerous events that day in 1980:

* * * *
The second Republican National Convention nominated a little-known former Congressman named Abraham Lincoln for President on this date in 1860. It took three ballots.

* * * *
William Saroyan died 35 years ago today.

* * * *
Bertrand Russell was born on this date in 1872. Frank Capra was born in 1897 on this date. Meredith Willson was born on this date in 1902. Dame Margot Fonteyn was born on this date in 1919. Pope John Paul II was born 96 years ago today.

* * * *
Bill Macy is 94 today. A scene between Bill Macy (gas station customer struggling with slippery eyeglasses) and Steve Martin (inventor), from “The Jerk”:

Jack Whitaker is 92 today. (For Americans of a certain age, he was one of the pre-eminent voices presenting sports on television.) Robert Morse is 85. “Brotherhood of Man”:

Brooks Robinson is 79 today. (Trivia: my first baseball glove was a Brooks Robinson.) More trivia: my first baseball hero came down to a choice between Graig Nettles and Reggie Jackson. Reggie Jackson is 70 today. Three pitches, three home runs:

Rick Wakeman is 67. Denny Dillon is 65. George Strait is 64. Tina Fey is 46. I have a friend who worked on “30 Rock,” and my understanding is that Tina Fey is a great co-worker: smart, funny, fearless.

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  1. LRose · May 18, 2016

    That particular May 18 was a Sunday. I had just gone to bed 2 or 3 hours before, after a couple hours making out with my Junior Prom date on my parent’s couch. It had been an absolutely wonderfully fun, but totally chaotic night, and I was head over heals for this guy. I slept like the dead.
    My folks teased me when I finally came stumbling out to the kitchen around noon, “Must have been some night! You didn’t wake with that big sonic boom?”
    Apparently, I was the only person in the whole of the Seattle area that slept through the sonic boom created by the explosion that morning (Seattle is 185 miles north of Mt. St. Helens, which should give you an idea of how tremendous the explosion was).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jacquelineobyikocha · May 18, 2016

    That volcanic eruption is fantastic to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

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