The White Cascade
The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche
By Gary Krist
Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805077056, 336pp.
Publication Date: February 6, 2007
List Price: $26.00*
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In February 1910, a monstrous blizzard centered on Washington State hit the Northwest, breaking records. The world stopped--but nowhere was the danger more terrifying than near a tiny town called Wellington, perched high in the Cascade Mountains, where a desperate situation evolved minute by minute: two trainloads of cold, hungry passengers and their crews found themselves marooned without escape, their railcars gradually being buried in the rising drifts. For days, an army of the Great Northern Railroad's most dedicated men--led by the line's legendarily courageous superintendent, James O'Neill--worked round-the-clock to rescue the trains. But the storm was unrelenting, and to the passenger's great anxiety, the railcars--their only shelter--were parked precariously on the edge of a steep ravine. As the days passed, food and coal supplies dwindled. Panic and rage set in as snow accumulated deeper and deeper on the cliffs overhanging the trains. Finally, just when escape seemed possible, the unthinkable occurred: the earth shifted and a colossal avalanche tumbled from the high pinnacles, sweeping the trains and their sleeping passengers over the steep slope and down the mountainside.
Centered on the astonishing spectacle of our nation's deadliest avalanche, The White Cascade is the masterfully told story of a supremely dramatic and never-before-documented American tragedy. An adventure saga filled with colorful and engaging history, this is epic narrative storytelling at its finest.
"What a wild-eyed, horrific, brilliantly written story Gary Krist tells in The White Cascade. You almost feel like you're a Great Northern Railway passenger in 1910, coping with the blizzard-from-hell. Jack London would be proud of this riveting nonfiction accomplishment."--Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Tulane University and author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast "The White Cascade brilliantly recreates one of those terrifying moments when human ingenuity runs up against the fierce power of nature. Gary Krist doesn't simply describe the Great Northern Railway Disaster. He takes you up the mountainside, settles you into the trapped Pullman car, and makes you feel the fear closing in around you. That's storytelling at its finest."--Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age "It is always a great gift when someone tells a long forgotten story, but it is especially so when the drama is this astonishing, and the writer this talented. Gary Krist weaves a spider web of a tale, drawing the reader in, until they feel as though they too are a passenger on Seattle 25, trapped in one of the world's most dangerous places, in one of history's most savage storms. The White Cascade will keep you up at night, and not just from its unsettling end--you won't be able to put it down."--Susan Casey, author of The Devil's Teeth