Harry Truman served in the Great War, as the First World War was known at the time. Not that Harry Truman, though Harry S. served in that war as well. No, I’m speaking about Harry R. Truman, a native of West Virginia who lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of his adult life. Last spring, on flights to and from Eastern Washington State, I had a chance to fly over the area where he once lived, though Harry, his home, and the surrounding geography all disappeared on May 18th, 1980. For Harry R. Truman was the stubborn innkeeper who refused to evacuate Mt. St. Helens.
The two numbers to keep in mind are 670 and 680. Six Hundred and Seventy miles per hour was the speed of the debris in the pyroclastic flow when the mountain erupted, though some scientists believe it may have briefly passed the speed of sound. Six Hundred and Eighty degrees Fahrenheit was the temperature when it hit the first human victims. If there is anything that could conjure an image of hell, a wall of six hundred and eighty degree fire moving at six hundred and seventy miles per hour should just about do it. Continue reading →