07/07/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's like living in a flour sifter," coughed one housewife of the fallout that has plagued the Portland, Oreg. area since the second major Mount St. Helens eruption in June. At first, rain-sodden ash covering the roads was the problem, causing skids and two fatal accidents. Then sun dried the ash to a powder, which swirled through the streets and into eyes, hair and clothing. Now automobile air filters clog, ponds turn to mud and the roses in the "City of Roses" are withering on the vine. The local joke is that 38 percent of Portland is suffering from VD—volcanic dust.
To preserve their lungs, citizens have covered their faces with everything from surgical masks to 25¢ paper models to garish bandannas. (As of last week these were still no designer models.) One artist, looking on the bright side, painted large, toothy smiles on her fabric mask. Just about everybody in town is being a good sport, though: When the First National Bank asked patrons, for security reasons, to remove their masks when entering, everyone complied—even the robbers in each of the six stickups of the bank's branches since the dust-up began.