The Eruption of Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. The volcanic event was the deadliest in the history of the United States.

Here are a few postcards showing the beauty and destruction of the mountain before and after.

This first postcard was produced by the Washington State Progress Commission.

Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake, Washington
Spirit Lake and Mount St. Helens…Spirit Lake splendid for camping and fishing. Mount St. Helens great for skiing and hiking. Elevation is 9,697.
Sponsored by Washington State Junior Chamber of Commerce with Cooperation of Washington State Progress Commission.
Washington State Invites You to the Year ‘Round Playground.

Here’s a view of Portland, Oregon with Mt. St. Helens looming over the skyline

Portland, Oregon
Here we see Portland from the west with Mt. St. Helens in the background.

Here’s a view of the mountain and Spirit Lake from the 1960s.

Mt St. Helens & Spirit Lake, Washington
Canoeing on lovely Spirit Lake with 9677 foot Mt. St. Helens in background. Located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in SW Washington. Lake is 42 miles east of Interstate Highway No. 5 at the end of State Highway No. 504.

The eruption:

Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Mt. St. Helens erupts with thick smoke raising high above the mountain’s summit. This view shows the newly formed single crater, caused from earthquakes and venting of ash, steam, rock and ice. Although Mt. St. Helens has been dormant for approximately 12 years, it is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the contiguous 48 states during the past 5000 years.
Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Mt. St. Helens in Washington rumbled to life May 18, 1980. It continues to steam and seathe with plumes of ash and ice being blown skyward twice as high as the 9,677 mountain itself.
Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
MT. ST. HELENS, located in southeastern Washington ERUPTS with a boom heard 150 miles in all directions. Ash reaching 63,000 feet in the air blackened the sky of Eastern Washington and points east all the way to the east coast.

Before and after:

Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Mt. St. Helens & Yale Lake, before and during the volcanic eruptions. These scenes offer a dramatic comparison – on the left, the mountains majestic beauty is captured and on the right the awesome power of the eruption is visible. The eruption occurred on May 18, 1980, the force blowing 1,300 feet off the top, spreading ash eastward across the continent.

The damage:

Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
This photo taken after the May 18, 1980 Volcanic eruption shows Spirit Lake and the debris that was deposited along with steam vents in the center and on the lower right you can see new water emerging to possibly recreated this lake once again. This photo shows the north side of the mountain and steam covering the 8400 foot peak.
Mt. St. Helens Eruption - May 18, 1980 - Mt. St. Helens, Washington
Mount St. Helens, located in southwest Washington, began volcanic activity in Spring, 1980 after of a dormant period of 123 years. On May 18, 1980 a major eruption blew approximately 2000 feet off the top of the 9,677 ft. mountain, causing it to fall inwards and forming a crater. Pictured here is the crate that resulted from the eruption. Mt. Rainier can be seen in the background.

And finally, a view of the second eruption that took place on July 22, 1980:

Mt. St. Helens Eruption - July 22, 1980 - Portland, Oregon
Mt. St. Helens, located approximately 50 miles north northeast of Portland, Oregon, ended 6 weeks of silence with a series of 3 eruptions on July 22, 1980.Pictured here is the third eruption – the ash and steam cloud of the earlier eruptions can be seen drifting eastward. The mountain previously erupted on June 12, 1980. On May 18, 1980, it erupted and blew 1,300 feet off its top, and sent ash 63,000 feet into the air eastward across the continent.

The Bonaventure Shopping Gallery Telephone Directory

Interior of the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel

The Bonaventure Shopping Gallery was one of the largest shopping galleries located within a hotel in the United States. The Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel (now the Westin Bonaventure) was constructed between 1974 and 1976 and was originally owned by investors from the Mitsubishi Corporation and the architectural firm of John Portman & Associates. The 33-story hotel has four different elevator banks, and I can personally attest, is a very confusing building. The elevators are color and symbol-coded to try to ease in navigation.

The shopping gallery within the hotel was originally 75,000 sq. feet and stretched from the first-sixth floors of the hotel. In 1980, the mall area was renovated and doubled in size. With a retail area of 150,000 square feet, 50 retail shops and featured five levels of retail shopping within enclosed atrium, the gallery was designed with businesspeople and international travelers (many visiting from Japan) in mind. There were many high-end jewelry stores, clothiers, luggage stores and giftshops.

This list is from an undated telephone guide to the shopping gallery. I believe the list to be from shortly after the renovation, around 1980 or 1981.

Galeria Cano
Precolumbian art reproductions
Level 5 – Telephone 625-2939

Louis Newman Galleries
Fine art – painting, sculpture and original graphics
Lovel 2 – Telephone 687-3200

Western art. crafts and gifts
Level 4 – Telephone 620-1733

News, magazines, gifts, etc.
Level 2 – Telephone 620-5732 in hotel dial 75127

Stacey’s Bookstore
Books, books and books
Level 4 – Telephone 687-3208

Bonnie’s Wee Shop
Refreshing, colorful children’s boutique
Level 5 – Telephone 687-3208

Allegra Design
Showing fine graphics, accessories, and décor
Level 3 – Telephone 680-2458

Bonaventure Florist
Flowers, plants and gift items
Level 2 – Telephone 620-0601

FAO Schwartz
Toys and games
Level 4 – Telephone 680-3210

French Kitchen
Cookware, gifts. gadgets, gourmet foods, wine and cheese, packaged wines & spirits
Level 4 – Telephone 629-5280

Gifts, greetings cards and souvenirs
Level 4 – Telephone 629-4730

Handbags, jewelry, men’s & women’s accessories
Level 4 – Telephone 620-1733

Sea Boutique
Specimen shells, corals, decorator items, gifts, plants, jewelry
Level 4 – Telephone 628-7644

The Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1980

August Moon
Antique jewelry, embroidery, porcelain, etc.
Level 3 – Telephone 626-4935

Bonaventure Jewelers
Fine jewelry, watches, distinctive giftware
Level 2 – Telephone 687-3767

Gems One
Opals, jade, fine jewelers, gems and gold
Level 4 – Telephone 624-5111

Miseki Jewelry
Fine jewelry, Japanese cultured pearls, and watches
Level 3 – Telephone 680-0060

Quartz Time Center
Watches, clocks, time pieces, repair
Level 5 – Telephone 629-2867

World of Charms
Charms and Fine Jewelry
Level 4 – Telephone 629-3466

Arto’s Suede and Leather
Suede and leather fashions
Level 3 – Telephone 687-0244

Beckel’s Luggage
Fine luggage and leather accessories
Level 2 – Telephone 620-0851

Western Leather Est.
Finest leather apparel, accessories and moccasins
Level 4 – Telephone 629-8118

Arias International Boutique
Men’s and women’s accessories, lingerie and handbags
Level 5 – Telephone 687-4406

C’est Sheri
California fashions for men and women with a European Flair
Level 5 – Telephone 620-0737

European men’s and and ladies apparel, shoes and accessories
Level 5 – Telephone 687-3175

European fashions for men and women
Level 5 – Telephone 485-1735

Personally Yours
Personalizing t-shirts and fashion merchandise
Level 4 – Telephone 629-8118

Super Shirts
T-shirts and accessories with custom designs
Level 4 – Telephone 624-0462

The London Shop
Ye shoppe for men
Level 5 – Telephone 687-8831

Morris Carr
Men’s apparel, sportswear, accessories and shoes
Level 3 – Telephone 628-7138

The Los Angeles Times – November 11, 1980

Bagel Nosh Restaurant
Deli-Food, Salad Bar
Level 4 – Telephone 680-9650 in hotel dial 75501

Carl’s Jr. Restaurant
Fast food/breakfast, lunch and dinner
Level 6 – Telephone 687-3087

Inagiku Restaurant
The finest in Oriental dining
Level 6 – Telephone 614-0820

Natural Feast
Frozen yogurt, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, gourmet vegetarian dishes.
Opening soon

Art Doty & Associates
Marketing and advertising services
Level 6 – Telephone 622-5011

Avis Rent-a-Car
Rental car service
Level 2 – Telephone 481-2000 Ext. 227

Bonaventure Hair Center
Barber & beauty for men and women
Level 3 – Telephone 624-4247 in hotel dial 75637

Budget Rent-a-Car
Rental car service
Level 2 – Telephone 627-1345 in hotel dial 75623

Copy Print
Photo copy and printing
Level 2 – Telephone 620-6279

Photocenter & Photography
One day film developing, cameras and services
Level 2 – Telephone 687-3173 in hotel dial 74383

Arias (Sport Shop)
Tennis and golf apparel and equipment
Level 5 – Telephone 687-4406

City Lights
Theatre tickets – limo service
Level 4 – Telephone 680-9876

Japanese tour service
Level 1 – Telephone 620-0251 or 620-0246 in hotel dial 71308 or 74494

Travel Guild
Full service travel agency
Level 4 – Telephone 624-1041

Custom knit casual and formal ear alterations
Level 5 – Telephone 613-0438

Lady Grace Fashions
Fine apparel and accessories for women
Level 5 – Telephone 687-3319

Saltoh Fur & Gifts
Finest Canadian furs, fine bags and gifts
Level 6 – Telephone 613-1662

MGM Grand Fire – November 21, 1980


WHAT: Hotel Fire
WHEN: November 21, 1980 approx. 7:10am
WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada
CASUALTIES: 87 Dead, Over 650 Injured

The Los Angeles Times – December 21, 1980

“There was screaming, crying, panic, horror. There was death.

And the saddest thing of all about the scene in the MGM Grand Hotel that morning of Nov. 21 is that it need not have happened. Many fire experts agree that it need not have happened. Many fire experts agree that, despite the terrible blaze that consumed the casino, most of the 84* lives lost that day could have been saved….”

The MGM Grand Hotel was one of the first massive luxury megaresorts on the Vegas Strip. At a cost of $106 million dollars and boasting 26 floors and 2,084 rooms, at the time of its opening in 1973 it was the largest hotel in the world.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – November 23, 1980

On the morning of November 21, 1980 there were more than 5,000 guests in the casino resort. At approximately 7:05 AM, a supervisor of a marble and tile setting crew entered one of MGM snack bars/restaurant known as The Deli. He was there to examine the premises for broken tiles. He got a lot more than he bargained for.

The employee first noticed a small reflection of a flickering light and, upon closer inspection, discovered a wall of flame traveling from the counter to the ceiling. He immediately notified MGM security about the fire and proceeded to secure a hose line and fire extinguisher.

The employee tried to contain the fire. But time and again the heat and smoke were so intense that he went knocked to the ground. He knew it was too late and left the casino immediately. Other employees started to notice the fire was starting to spread quickly and could nothing to stop it and they left, too.

The Los Angeles Times – December 21, 1980

The fire, which was caused by an electrical ground fault in one of the walls of the restaurant, had been smoldering for hours before entering a catwalk area above the casino. The fire became so hot that it exploded through the ceiling. It then almost immediately spread to the lobby of the casino at a rate 15 to 19 feet per second.

The blaze was fed by highly-flammable wallpaper, glue in the ceiling tiles, the use of PVC pipes and plastic mirrors. The flames moved through a restaurant in the lobby called the Parisian Bar, where a plastic awning caught fire and added to the blaze. It ripped the casino floor with such force that a gigantic fireball erupted out the main entrance that faced the Las Vegas Strip.

AP Photo

Approximately 10 people were charred instantly by the conflagration on the casino floor. That number would have been much higher had the fire broken out even an hour lateras most of the resorts patrons were not on the casino floor.

Firefighters were quick to arrive on the scene and by 8:30am had managed to contain the flames to the first two levels of the casino. However, that was just the start of the disaster.

AP Photo

Lethal black smoke and carbon monoxide from the fire began to drift up  the 26 floors of the casino through the elevator shafts, stairwells and air conditioning ducts. The air conditioning units on the roof were not equipped with smoke dampeners or detectors, and continued to operate, recirculating the toxic smoke throughout the building.

All of this time, many of the guests were not alerted to the what was going on the casino. No one from the casino warned the guests about the smoke. No alarms were sounded anywhere in the building and fire safety sprinklers were not installed in most of the hotel.

Floor by floor guests were surprised by the smoke. Many guests on the upper floors of the casino tried to escape through the stairwells. Unfortunately, the stairwells were filled with the lethal byproducts of the fire and escape was impossible. The doors to each floor locked behind them and there were only two exits on the 1st and 26th floors that were unlocked and accessible through the stairwell. Everyone in those stairwells died. Many of them sat on the stairs, unable to breathe, and died from inhalation.

Panic did set in for many. The Las Vegas Fire Department’s ladders were only long enough to reach to the 9th floor, leaving hundreds on the upper floors stranded.

As the smoke worsened, guests sought an escape. Some broke windows get fresh air only to be greeted more smoke. Some built rope ladders to attempt to climb all the way down. Some guests broke out hotel windows, hoping to clear the smoke from their rooms, only to find more was pouring in from outside. At least one woman jumped to her death. Others made their way to the roof of the MGM Grand where they were rescued by local police and Air Force helicopters. Several hundred hotel guests were saved from the rooftops.

Los Angeles Times – November 22, 1980

Unlike most mass casualty fires, not one victim died as a result of jamming at the exits and trampling. Instead, many took steps to preserve their lives as the smoke filled every floor.. Patrons of the hotel had time to put wet towels over their faces and around doors to block out smoke. Others warned people and they would group up and stay in a safe area.

Ukiah Daily-Journal – November 25, 1980

All in all, eight-seven people died in the fire. 84 died that day and a few others died later. One victim was found in ruins of the casino nearly two days after the fire.

Save for the 10 victims on the casino floor, nearly all of the victims died due to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. A total of 650 people were hospitalized. Fourteen firefighters were admitted with issues related to the smoke.

An investigation was started almost immediately and some awful facts came to the life.

It was determined that the tragedy could have either been prevented if the hotel had a sprinkler system installed in all of the hotel and not just sections.

This particular fire almost assuredly been would been avoided had there been sprinklers in the kitchen to put out the slow, smoldering fire.

The investigation also revealed that the fire marshall and a risk management group hited by the MGM had recommended the hotel install sprinklers. Hotel executives resisted the recommendations due the $190,000 cost of sprinkler installation.

The casino was ultimately granted an exemption —despite the opposition of fire marshals—reasoning that a fire would be quickly noticed and could easily be contained with portable fire extinguishers located close by. When the fire broke out that day in The Deli, the restaurant was no longer open 24 hours per day; in fact it was closed and was completely unoccupied.

After the fire, 83 building code violations were found, but no one faced criminal charges.

More than 1,300 lawsuits were filed against everyone would have anything to do with the construction of the hotel. 118 companies would ultimately be involved the construction and operation of the MGM Grand. They paid into a $223 million settlement fund, with MGM itself contributing nearly half that amount.

AP Photo

Nevada now has some of the strictest fire safety laws in the country, and the fire is cited in improving hotel safety worldwide.

The MGM Grand fire was a terrible tragedy but would have likely faded from the news within a month but a tragic event in Purchase, New York (post coming December 5th), just two weeks later would thrust the MGM and fire safety right back in to the limelight.