Linda McPherson and her husband, Gary “Mac” McPherson, were reading the newspaper Saturday morning in their Oso home, separated only by a living room end table, when the trees outside started whipping from side to side, said their daughter Kate McPherson. They then heard a tremendous noise.
The couple never saw the mud.
The impact shattered the house and shoved what remained about 150 feet, to the far southeast side of the slide, Kate McPherson said.
Her father, 81, woke up covered in mud. He was able to grab a stick and start digging himself out.
Passersby helped extricate him from the slurry and debris. They found Linda McPherson’s lifeless body nearby.
Linda McPherson, 69, was a Darrington native, a former librarian and long-time school board member.
Officials have still not released the names of 13 others whose deaths have been confirmed. They also say as many as 176 may be missing.
Mac McPherson, who suffered abrasions and bruises, is convalescing with family in Everett.
Kate McPherson said her parents had lived in the house along Highway 530 for 40 years. They bought the land from Linda’s parents, who lived next door in the home where she and her six brothers and sisters grew up. That house, now owned by the McPhersons’ nephew and his wife, was also destroyed.
Kate McPherson said that although the hillside across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River had slid many times over the previous decades, no one ever imagined a collapse so massive that it could cross the river and extend all the way to Highway 530, about a mile away.
“My dad was concerned that the hill had slid before, but truthfully, no one ever thought it would go that far,” she said.
Even if the danger were known, she said, her mother likely wouldn’t have moved.
“She loved the land. That was her home. She was never going to leave.”
Coverage of today’s mudslide developments can be found here.