At 8:32 am on May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens blew its lid. Today, you can observe the 40th anniversary of that spectacle by doing what Portlanders did that morning: Turn on the TV news and watch the footage, dumbfounded.
A remarkable amount of the news broadcasts from that morning have survived intact. Not all of the video looks great—as the Oregon Historical Society recently noted, TV stations had recently switched from celluloid film to magnetic tape. But there's a ton of it. And no documentary quite captures the mixture of excitement, fear and confusion like seeing how newscasters reacted when the volcano popped.
OHS has collected the best KATU-TV clips from that morning on its blog. You should check out the full portfolio. But if you have time for just one clip, this one includes a lightning strike at the 1:12 mark.
KGW-TV combed through its archives and dug up some terrific outtakes. The footage is painstakingly curated—and by far the best preserved look at what happened that day.
KOIN-TV crafted a highlight reel of its coverage when it sought awards at the end of 1980. This 30-minute reel is the closest approximation to waking up, seeing an ashy cloud to the north, and flipping on the television. It's baffling, and weird, there's a "telecopter," and the anchors keep talking about lava. The big difference between watching this in 1980 and watching it now is that weed is now legal. Happy viewing.