Tales From The Road: The Big Bang In 1980


I’ve heard a lot of talk about the Big Bang in the past 38 years. No, I don’t mean that light-headed sit­com on tele­vi­sion. I also am not re­fer­ring to the hy­poth­e­sis that all cre­ation sud­denly and mag­i­cally ap­peared from a loud noise. As I said in my Nov. 30, 2011, Re­flec­tion: Big Bang The­o­ries and hu­man­is­tic evo­lu­tion make in­trigu­ing sci­ence fic­tion, but do not give us use­able knowl­edge. Rather they are diver­sions which turn us away from Almighty God who cre­ated us, and from Je­sus Christ who loves us and died for us.

So, what am I talk­ing about?

If you are more than 38 years old, re­mem­ber where you were at 8:32 a.m. (PST) on Sun­day morn­ing, May 18, 1980.

Now, can you tell me what event pro­duced a very loud noise, belched out more than 540 mil­lion tons of ash over seven states, low­ered the moun­tain sum­mit by 1,300 feet, and sent more than five cu­bic miles of dirt, rocks, and mud over the land­scape?

If you said “the Mount St. He­lens erup­tion” you are cor­rect. And it was a cat­a­strophic event!

Quot­ing Mary Ba­gley from LiveS­cience on Feb. 28, 2013: “In terms of eco­nomic im­pact, the Mount St. He­lens erup­tion was the most de­struc­tive (vol­canic event) in U.S. his­tory. Fifty­seven peo­ple are known to have died. More than 200 homes were de­stroyed. More than 185 miles of roads and 15 miles of rail­ways were dam­aged. Ash clogged sewage sys­tems, dam­aged cars and build­ings, and tem­po­rar­ily shut down air traf­fic over the North­west. The In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion es­ti­mated dam­ages to tim­ber, civil works and agri­cul­ture to be $1.1 bil­lion.”

Carol and I vis­ited Mt. St. He­lens re­cently and I can­not be­gin to tell you in this Re­flec­tion how the visit emo­tion­ally af­fected us. We had seen the event on tele­vi­sion back in 1980, we heard about it on ra­dio, and we read about it nu­mer­ous times; so we were knowl­edge­able about this his­tor­i­cal episode. How­ever, this was the first time we saw the moun­tain and sur­round­ing ter­rain first-hand; and see­ing it for our­selves was an eye-opener!

Carol and I drove up to the John­ston Ridge Ob­ser­va­tory sit­u­ated about 4,300 feet above sea level and spent all af­ter­noon look­ing and learn­ing. In my mind, I can still see the side of the moun­tain col­lapse and slide down to the val­ley. Then, within a sec­ond, the top and side of the moun­tain erupted into a hellish in­ferno, with clouds of steam and ash be­ing pro­pelled up to 15 miles into the at­mos­phere.

Quite often on the 48-mile drive from the Sil­ver Cove RV Re­sort, we stopped to gaze in won­der­ment at how this part of the state had been changed. The level of Spirit Lake is sev­eral hun­dred feet higher and the Toutle River val­ley has been re­shaped. The mag­ni­tude of the event is al­most over­whelm­ing.

But as ter­ri­ble and hor­ren­dous as it was, there was an in­ter­est­ing side-note to the event. Evo­lu­tion­ists and stu­dents of ge­ol­ogy have at­tested for quite a while that it took thou­sands to mil­lions of years for rivers to carve canyons and gorges out of moun­tains, prairies, and rock. They af­firmed that it took eons of time to pro­duce the multi-lay­ers of rock and dirt we find in moun­tains and canyons. But they didn’t fac­tor in events like earth­quakes and vol­canos.

It took a ge­o­logic event like the Mt. St. He­lens erup­tion to ver­ify that canyons, gorges, mul­ti­ple lay­ers of soil and rock, etc., can be pro­duced in hours – if not min­utes.

Be­cause of 38 years of rain, snow, wind, and more earth­quakes, the land­scape no longer looks like the moon­scape when Pres­i­dent Carter vis­ited it in 1980, but the area around the moun­tain is still a stark and bar­ren land. How­ever, the for­est is ever-so-slowly mak­ing a come-back.

I strongly rec­om­mend this visit to any­one who has time and plan to spend a full day. Drive east on High­way 504, and stop at vis­i­tor cen­ters and view­points along the way. Take pic­tures. The ex­tent of the dev­as­ta­tion un­folds with each mile, yet you’ll also see na­ture’s amaz­ing re­cov­ery.

If you don’t have much time to spend, the Mount St. He­lens vis­i­tor cen­ter at Sil­ver Lake lo­cated on Hwy. 504 about 6 miles off I-5 is a great place to start. But if that visit in­spires you, you have only 50 miles to go to the John­ston Ridge Ob­ser­va­tory.

Then, you’ll prob­a­bly hear com­ing from your mouth: “Oh, Wow!”

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