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on 28 April 2005
On Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, the north side of Mt St Helens collapsed in the largest landslide in recorded history. Superheated water flashed to steam, and an enormous explosion roared out behind the crumbling slope. Within a few minutes, the mountain had lost 1,300 feet of its height, thousands of acres were devastated and 57 people were dead.
"Echoes of Fury" traces the lives of eight people who were caught up in the eruption and its aftermath: Don Swanson, a geologist who had persuaded a colleague to take his place at an observation post near the volcano; Roald Reitan and Venus Dergan, two lovers trapped in a mudflow; Donna Parker, whose brother was killed even though he was camped well outside the official danger zone; Andre Stepankowsky, a reporter who helped the Longview Daily News win a Pulitzer for its reporting about the eruption and its aftermath; Peter Frenzen, a graduate student who became the official monument scientist; Robert Rogers, a young daredevil who repeatedly risked his life to explore and photograph the erupting volcano; and Jim Scymanky, a logger whose crew was caught by the volcano's blast.
Parchman's book appears just in time for the 25th anniversary of Mt St Helen's eruption, and it is well worth reading. After briefly telling the story of the volcano's return to life in March 1980, Parchman quickly plunges into the story, describing the eruption and the terrifying events experienced by Scymanky, Reitan, Dergan and Rogers. After explaining what happened on that Sunday morning in 1980, Parchman covers the aftermath--the ash that blanketed eastern Washington, turning day into night; the mudflows that choked the Columbia River and threatened the cities of Kelso and Longview with catastrophic flooding; the lawsuit against the State of Washington and Weyerhaeuser; the devastation of the landscape; the rebirth of the mountain; and the lives forever changed by the loss of loved ones.
This is a gripping story, well told. Mt St Helens is a remarkable place--and, as its recent eruptions of steam and ash remind us, its story is by no means over.
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