May 17, l980—a group of sports fans gathered that evening at one of the local watering holes in Moses Lake, after a hard day at the ball fields, competing for spots in the regional softball tournament—“there’s nothing to do around here,” several of them groused while downing their brews.
What a surprise they had the following day, when huge globs of grey dirt began falling from the skies—much like Bartholemew and Ooblick in that classic 1949 Seuss story—roads out of Moses Lake were closed for about a week. Those who’d complained the night before really had a reason to gripe now.
Plans to drive to church that morning from our home on the former Larson AFB were revised, and my three children were fascinated—like many other kids—because of all the ash falling on the streets, roofs, etc. Irrigation pipes were wheeled into town to wash away the debris; those who had bikes for transportation, used them to get around town; schools were closed, and so were many businesses. We did a lot of walking during the next couple of weeks.
Souvenir bottles of ash were collected and shipped “back East” to distant relatives and friends. A local photographer had his spring ash fall photo published on the front cover of National Geographic—our newspaper staff on the Columbia Basin Herald met the challenge and excitement of local coverage of the big event. That week’s issue became a collector’s item.
Yes, we all remember the ash fall and how it impacted Moses Lake. According to local farmers, it did a world of good for growers because the ash buried insects who might otherwise have damaged the crops.
When my parents visited later that summer, they tried fruitlessly to persuade me it was time to move back to Pittsburgh—No way! I definitely preferred Washington—rainfall and ash fall.