World & Nation

Washington’s deadly mudslide: A survivor’s story

Washington mudslide
Volunteers working out of the Oso Fire Department search for survivors from Saturday’s mudslide. But none have been found since the first day.
(Mark Mulligan / Everett Herald)

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- Linda McPherson spent most of her life along the Stillaguamish River. Even though her husband of nearly 50 years warned her that the region was prone to mudslides, there was no other place she’d rather be.

“If she had to die, I’m glad she died there,” her daughter, Kate McPherson, told the Los Angeles Times.

On Saturday, Linda and Gary “Mac” McPherson were reading the newspaper in their longtime home on State Route 530, an hour north of Seattle. Mac McPherson heard a roar. Looking up, he saw the trees twist.

Then he blacked out. When he woke up, his house had been pushed 150 yards across a deep gully, landing where a barn used to be.


“He woke up and he was sitting in an old, heavy wood chair,” Kate McPherson, a 38-year-old special education teacher, said of her father. “It crushed in around him. That protected him. He grabbed a stick from the chair and started digging.”

Linda McPherson, 69, died in the slide. Her body was the first of 16 that emergency workers had recovered as of late Tuesday. Authorities said Tuesday night that they thought they had located another eight, which have yet to be removed from the square mile of mud and debris. 

Mac McPherson, 81, is in seclusion with family members. His daughter recounted his bittersweet tale of survival amid tears Tuesday.

“We have a huge family, and everybody’s pitching in,” Kate McPherson said. “We’re very fortunate that we have that support system. I feel for people who don’t have that. Or worse, that their loved ones are still trapped.”


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