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From Mountain to Volcano and Back, Mt. St. Helens, Washington

This album will be a long time in construction. Not only are there a lot of pictures, but most of them are still slides that I haven't had scanned yet. As an employee of Weyerhaeuser Company, the major player in the restoration of the roads and salvage of the blown-down timber, the "mountain" was an everyday concern for me for a long time. This beautiful backdrop and namesake of our operating area, the St. Helens Tree Farm, stepped into the forefront of my life on May 18, 1980 and changed it in unimaginable ways for many years to come. Nearly 50,000 acres of forest land in various stages of forest management (some had already been harvested and replanted for a number of years and some was still old-growth waiting to be harvested) became my primary focus for several years. The first few days after the major destructive eruption and subsequent river mudflows were characterized by confusion, chaos and intensive planning efforts, many of which were attempts to determine the extent of the damage and a reasonable method of attack to start our lands on a course to recovery. From a helicopter in the air and with existing maps and pre-eruption up-to-date aerial photos the plans gradually developed into reasonable courses of action. The immediate problem was the Cowlitz and Toutle Rivers which were choked with logs, trees and debris clear to the Columbia River. Company personnel immediately began salvage efforts near the confluence with the Columbia River. The first issue became a question of who really owned the timber in the log jams. A third party consultant was hired to determine the value distribution to all the up-river landowners who had lost timber to the mudflow. As the salvage moved up the rivers, the ownership of the timber became more obvious. It was June and the coming winter with its flood potential made the rapid salvage of the river-borne timber imperative. As soon as the timber was removed, the dredging process started under the direction of the State and Federal governments. Simultaneously, Company personnel began salvaging the equipment that had been partially buried at Camp Baker, 19-Mile Camp, and 12-Road Camp. The buried railroad tracks were cleared and removed. Much of the equipment was damaged beyond salvage. Meanwhile, there were restrictions on access to the upriver properties from several sources. One was common sense and what we as a Company had learned about the forces that had occurred and could again occur. Another was the governmental agencies and their best attempts to regulate access to the area from the standpoint of public safety. Another was the fact that most of the roads were blocked by debris consisting of blown-down timber and volcanic material such as ash (very deep in areas close to the mountain) and the lack of highway access blocked in the same manner and the tremendous number of bridges that were lost. Long story short, new routes acceptable to the company and the agencies from the public and employee safety standpoint were quickly constructed and maintained with great difficulty and the salvage began. Communication systems were established between the Company and the federal agencies monitoring the mountain's activities. Anybody in the "Blast Zone" was required to have radio communications with our communications center and workers had to have safety equipment such as face masks and a temporary food and water supply and fully understand their possible escape routes should an emergency occur. The first loads of logs came off the lands when permitted in August, a mere three months after the event. All Company lands not taken by the Federal Government as part of the setting up of the National Volcanic Monument were eventually salvaged by 1983 and rehabilitated and re-planted with new trees by 1988. The after-effects of the eruption are still being felt in some areas. We who were there will always remember those busy days with awe of the destructive power of the eruption and pride in our collective ability to "get it done". All photos were scanned from old 35mm slides or taken with a Sony Mavica 85 (1.3MP).

A Helicopter Ride into the Blast Zone, St. Helens Tree Farm. Longview, Washington
©1980 James W. Booher

A Helicopter Ride into the Blast Zone, St. Helens Tree Farm. Longview, Washington

July, 1980 I apologize for the even poorer quality of these scanned slides. They were taken through the helicopter front window which is reflective and not entirely clean either. It is always moving also.

Uploaded: November 19, 2006
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  • (Anonymously) (Private)
    8 years 10 months ago
    How can anyone who is not from here know the terror, the feeling of a nightmare that we would wake up from. The amazing amount of Wa. Or. and British columbia that had the black clounds the ash everday.