The Spirit of Mt. St. Helens

Forty years ago, the Pacific Northwest was rocked by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, in Washington state, when the north face of the volcano blew out triggering a massive landslide that devastated forests and communities for miles around.

The plume of ash and gas reached 15 miles into the atmosphere, depositing debris across 13 states. The mudflows in the aftermath flattened homes and destroying vegetation, killing 57 people. Ash from the volcano continued to drift and affected air quality as far away as Portland, Ore.

Bob Brown, left, and his brother John attempt to lead three horses to safety out of the Weyerhaeuser 19 mile yard log in Kid Valley, Wash. The yard was flooded by the Toutle River following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 19, 1980. (AP Photo/Gary Stewart)

Harry R. Truman, the 83-year-old, World War I veteran, owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake near the foot of the mountain, is remembered as the Spirit of Mt. St. Helens. After the mountain began to shake and he refused to leave the evacuation zone, he became a national celebrity.

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. He is remembered as the Spirit of Mt. St. Helens, Harry R. Truman was last seen at about 6 p.m. on May 17, 1980.

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  1. I had the privilege to hunt on the mountain a little over a year before the eruption. We stopped at Harry’s place and talked with him, he was quite a character for sure. Spirit Lake looked like a postcard picture, such a beautiful place.


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