May 18, 1980: Quincy pulls together in historic day
Editor’s Note: The following stories were printed in the Quincy Valley Post-Register on May 22, 1980, only four days after Mount St. Helens erupted some 200 miles away. Mayor Ken McGrew made this statement at a council meeting after the eruption: “The greatest asset of Quincy is its citizens and the truth of this statement was never more in evidence than during the past four days in the aftermath of the Mount St. Helens eruption.”
‘Super cooperation’ displayed by residents in emergency
George Nutter probably has a few gray hairs on his head this week that are not just volcanic ash that can be washed away. He was faced with more problems than he realized Sunday noon as the dark cloud from Mount St. Helens enveloped Quincy with both Chief Ken Carlile and Mayor Ken McGrew out of town.
“A lot of decisions were made that may not have been correct, and I will take the responsibility for them,” Nutter modestly told the town council Tuesday night.
We called in reserve officers by noon Sunday to help direct traffic and get cars off the streets. The next problem was finding a place to put up the stranded travelers, and we called Dr. Johnson and arranged to house them in the high school. Some of the older people and those with small babies were placed in private homes.
We got cots from schools, the daycare center and churches, and firemen helped take them to the high school. When we noticed they were getting nervous and impatient, we bought some coffee, cups and supplies from the stores – this helped settle everyone down. The school opened up the supplies of food for the hot lunch program and volunteers came in to cook a meal and everybody was fed and bedded down.
“I spent about $121 of the city’s money to pay for supplies but I hope we will be reimbursed for that.” The Red Cross came in about 8 p.m. to assist with the operation and they have offered to help with the expenses, Nutter said, and we are asking for help from the Salvation Army.
Among those stranded in Quincy were a deputy sheriff, a policeman and a doctor, and Nutter enlisted them to help take care of the travelers as well as work along with regular officers.
“We kept a policeman on duty around the clock at the high school to answer questions and keep people advised on the conditions, and this helped keep everything under control. By Tuesday morning we had everyone on their way out of town, and we began the job of cleaning up the school. More volunteers came in to help with the cleanup and it was all taken care of.
Nutter also supervised the job of keeping the police cars running. The department has two cars and neither one broke down during the emergency. “We cleaned the filters every two hours and changed them several times. We used $102 worth of air filters, but we avoided the troubles the state patrol and sheriff’s department had with stalled vehicles,” Nutter said.
They will probably need new carburetors and brake jobs, but when we changed the oil Tuesday it looked very clean and the engines seem to be in good shape.
The number of calls coming into the police station was unbelievable, Nutter said. There were 131 calls Sunday, 328 calls Monday and 209 Tuesday. They were more than Cindi Gibson, the regular dispatcher, could handle so he recruited Leslie Gonzales to help out. “We were handling 10 times our normal amount of calls and Leslie was a big help to us.”
Nutter said he may have cost the merchants a lot of business by asking them to close at 5 p.m. but he wanted to get the traffic off the streets by 6 p.m. “If the stores and taverns weren’t open, there was no reason for people to be driving around – it helped to make traffic control easier,” he said. “We had great cooperation from the merchants.”
There was also tremendous cooperation from individuals, fertilizer companies, farmers and firemen. They volunteered their rigs and manpower to help wet down the streets and clean up the ash on the streets and parking lots. It was a super effort by a great number of people which made it possible to do the job.
Massive cleanup job underway in Quincy
The most massive cleanup operation in the history of Quincy began Monday morning in the wake of Mount St. Helens eruption and no one is predicting how long it will take.
Hundreds of volunteers pitched in with equipment and are working alongside of city employees and firemen to clear streets of more than a quarter inch of fine volcanic ash. Workers were busy 12 to 18 hours a day in the gigantic undertaking, using water tanks from the fire department and fertilizer tanks from local businesses in an attempt to wash the ash from the streets.
Many neighborhoods joined together sweeping the ash in piles and hauling it away while others wet down the streets with hoses in an attempt to hold down the dust.
Fallout at George heavier than Quincy
Conditions at George were beginning to return to normal by Wednesday morning with the residents still facing a cleanup job of monumental proportions.
Jim Huffman said the fallout there was two or three times greater than in Quincy and there is no equipment available at all to handle it. The firemen there are working on washing down the main streets as they can take the time but it is a slow process.
At least 200 travelers were stranded in George and they were housed in the community hall and Lutheran Church. There was no food shortage and employees as Martha Inn prepared food for stranded travelers and served it at the community hall. All of them had been moved out of George by Tuesday in caravans through Quincy and then west.
Huffman said traffic was moving west on I-90 Wednesday morning and not kicking up much dust but there was only an occasional truck going east. There are many stalled cars along the freeway and some of them have been vandalized already, Huffman said.
Camp Fire group stranded in Wenatchee
The fifth-grade Camp Fire group, Alohi, was stranded in Wenatchee for four hours while on a weekend camping trip to Thousand Trails at Lake Wenatchee.
Leaders Pat Husband and Maurice and Judy Johnson had accompanied 10 girls on the trip and were advised by a ranger Sunday morning that they should return home. They got as far as Wenatchee, where they stayed with one of the girl’s grandmothers until they could come home in a convoy Monday evening.
There was no fallout at the camp but the group heard the explosion of the eruption and commented that it might be Mount St. Helens. “We had a good time and it was an experience to remember. Our group will be stronger because of it,” Mrs. Husband said.
Members of the group were Dana Johnson, Rachael Sumida, Denise Oldfather, Tanya Slusher, Francine Pecka, Janine Gibson, Sheri Tharp, Debbie Ward, Kim Johnson and Casi Husband.
Ash is fluffy but it weighs a ton
The amount of ash deposited in this area varies greatly from one location to another, and it was heavier to the south of Quincy. Ralph Kooy did some calculations on the deposits at White Trail Road and George and found that there was 29.6 tons per acre at White Trail and 55.7 tons per acre at George.
Dr. Ted Johnson reports that the material, when viewed under a microscope, has very obvious abrasive qualities. There are bright shiny particles in the ash that have very sharp points and jagged edges.