Each community or public agency organizes an ash cleanup operation in its own way using the available machinery and equipment and sometimes, the help of people and organizations not affected by the ashfall. By sharing the experiences of those who had to remove and dispose of volcanic ash, communities who are affected in the future can avoid some of the hardships experienced and mistakes made. No one technique is likely to be the best in all situations and a range of measures often provides the best results. Constant monitoring of ash effects and mitigation procedures is encouraged to achieve the most effective balance between operational requirements and damage limitation.
In 1980 when Mt. St Helens erupted, Spokane had over 850 mi (1400 km) of paved roadways that required ash removal. The ash that fell in Spokane was so fine that it could not be picked up with conventional equipment and went airborne when it came in contact with street sweepers. Cities and towns located closer to Mt. St Helens were able to use graders and sweepers because the material was not as fine as the ash that fell in Spokane. Placing only water on the ash did not help, so the city experimented with different materials placed on the streets that would bind to the ash and make it easier and more efficient to pick-up. The street crews found that damp sawdust served as a good binder. Crews applied damp sawdust on city streets with sanders. The damp sawdust and ash were then swept-up with conventional street sweepers.