Find of the Month

Each month we highlight interesting, important, and odd items from our collection, along with the stories they tell.

Most recent Find of the Month

September 2023 - Volcanic eruption contingency plans

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As Mt. St. Helens started to rumble in 1980, city agencies began preparing for possible effects on the city. When the eventual eruption and ash fall mainly impacted areas to the east, Seattle loaned city employees and heavy equipment to the state and to the city of Yakima to assist in cleanup, but also continued to assess how a future volcanic event could impact public services if significant ash fell on Seattle.

A report in the Fire Department Central Files details expected effects on various City departments. For example, City Light anticipated potential equipment issues with a buildup of ash, the Building Department focused on ventilation in city-owned buildings, the Citizens Service Bureau expected to step in with public communications, and the Parks Department planned to protect the zoo, aquarium, and outdoor pools.

Other local public agencies were also making contingency plans. In a letter to Mayor Royer, Metro's executive director described their preparations for transit service and water pollution control. If there was ash fallout in the middle of a workday, Metro committed to getting people home, estimating that they should be able to continue operating buses for at least two days with their backup supply of air and oil filters and masks for employees.

The letter described joint planning efforts with the city's Engineering Department, which had resulted in recommendations to keep ash out of the sewers at all costs, as it could clog pipes and tanks and destroy motors and pumps. Yakima had to release raw sewage into local waterways when ash got into their systems, and Seattle agencies wanted to prevent this from happening locally. They advised asking the public not to hose or sweep ash into drainage systems, but instead to shovel it into piles for later disposal. To remove ash from streets, the recommendation was to first spread wet sawdust and then pick up the sawdust/ash mixture. Metro was looking into whether this mixture could later be used as compost.

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Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
Address: 600 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94728, Seattle, WA, 98124-4728
Phone: (206) 684-8353

The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.