Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Like Mount St. Helens?

Wired News: What a Little Moon Dust Can Do

We were in panhandle Idaho when Mount St. Helens blew in 1980. We'd bought a simple house in Potlatch and were in the process of refurbishing it. There was not a window nor a door in on the house, and the whole thing was up on cribbing pending the pouring of a basement.

One afternoon, May 18, while we were working on further gutting the place and prepping a space to camp (we had to move in the next day because our rental in nearby Moscow expired), Sue (my wife of almost 31 years now) called to me to look out the window at what was on the horizon, which was black and wide. After a few seconds we knew what it was on accounta having had ash fall our our car a couple of times and being aware of the impending erruption from the media.

So we hustled into the car and headed back to Moscow, 20 miles away. Before we'd gotten halfway there the dust was settling. Worse. Before we'd gotten there we'd had to lag half a mile behind the nearest car due to decreased visibility from the dust kicked up in its wake.

Oh my God.

The stuff was awful. It hung in the air like talcum. It got into everything. Your hair would not pass a comb. Your zipper would not zip. The Honda needed an engine overhaul long before it would have otherwise been due. An image burned into my mind is of a horse in a colorless, moonlike field, shaking itself free of dust. Poor beast didn't have a clue what was going on, and I hate to think what happened to its lungs as it tried to graze.

We moved the next day, but it was an ordeal. We went around the gate closing the road from Moscow to Potlatch because we had to. We lived in the wide open house for two weeks, trying to bathe from a tub of water warmed in an electric kettle (we'd ripped all the plumbing and installed a toilet and a hose bib). It was one of those adventures to remember somewhat fondly, but wondering why. Plastic sheeting on window and door spaces was useless. The stuff went everywhere.

That dust was amazing. I can't imagine what lunar dust must be like.

No comments: