GLADWIN – A quarter century ago, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and the largest in a populated area. Gladwin native Robert Reynolds was assigned in a civilian capacity at Clark Air Base, Philippines during this time.
This is a personal account of life in the Philippines leading up to and during that catastrophic natural event. In A FINE GRAY RAIN, you’ll experience the idyllic life for those living on that island paradise and then the unexpected awakening of nearby Mount Pinatubo after more than 550 years of dormancy.
A small venting of steam from a nearby mountain seemed no cause for concern when it first appeared. However, over the course of weeks the vent became larger and seismic activity increased. Scientists arrived at the American air base to begin monitoring the activity and military officials began planning in case an eruption appeared imminent. In June, more than 15,000 military, civilian and dependents, including Reynolds’ family, were evacuated to Subic Bay Navy Base several miles away. A 1,000-person force remained to watch over the air base.
Three days later the first of several eruptions occurred, but resulted in little damage. By the end of the week, however, the mountain suffered its most damaging eruption and chased the remaining personnel from the base. This major eruption continued for several hours shooting ash, poisonous gases, and volcanic debris miles into the sky. The thick, wet ash rained down turning day into night as it blocked the sun. At the same time a major typhoon blew in off the ocean and earthquakes repeatedly rattled the area. The heavy typhoon rains caused major flooding as ash-mud slurries raced down local riverbeds and low-lying areas, washing away bridges and homes and burying the base in several inches to several feet of cement-like ash. The rain-laden ash caused hundreds of buildings, warehouses, and aircraft hangars to collapse, including the building housing Reynolds’ office. In the meantime, typhoon winds blew ash and rain toward the Navy base, causing similar destruction.
Reynolds was a member of a small contingent of personnel who returned to Clark Air Base from their “safe haven”, ironically at the base of another, but extinct volcano.
Military officials decided to evacuate all non-essential personnel from both the Air Force and Navy bases. Along with thousands of others, Reynolds’ family would be evacuated from Subic Bay via aircraft carrier. Reynolds himself remained at Clark to help conduct salvage operations before the devastated bases were relinquished to the Philippine Government.
A FINE GRAY RAIN is Robert Reynolds’ firsthand account of one of nature’s biggest and most destructive events of the 20th century. This book can be ordered from www.lulu.publishing.