Mt. Rainier is primed for disaster.
The volcano will blow. No one knows when, but all indications point to the western flank as the weak point and it’s aimed right at Puyallup, Tacoma, and the massive populations sprawling south of Seattle. Part of my reason for writing these two books was to heighten awareness and inspire folks to prepare for emergencies.
Something that becomes ever more critical in these modern times.
Of course, both of my books incorporate crime into their plots, as well. Nocturne pits Riley Forte against a serial killer, while Steadman rescues an abducted child and battles organized crime.
But the volcano provides the perilous backdrop.
Setting the scene
Fifty-eight miles south of Seattle, Mt. Rainier rises to meet the clouds. Reigning queen of the landscape, she symbolizes the pristine beauty of the Pacific Northwest, robed in emerald, and crowned with diamond-sparkling snow, the graceful sweep of her slopes soaring up to draw the eye and gladden the heart.
But the benevolent appearance of the mountain masks a deadly and volatile might.
Within the reach of that power, communities nestle, secure in the belief that life today will continue as it did yesterday, and the day before, and for so many days before that. People build houses, elect officials, establish commerce, and do all manner of things to create a haven for themselves and their loved ones.
While deep below Rainier’s surface, a river of molten rock pushes up against the stratified layers, fracturing the bed of stone into splinters and sending tremors through the mountain and surrounding areas. For thousands of years, torrents of rain and melting snow have mixed with sulphuric acid, seeping into the rock, altering it into a crumbling clay-like substance, unstable and susceptible to landslides.
Fifty-six hundred years ago, Rainier’s eastern flank blew sky high in the great Osceola mudslide, covering 212 square miles in a thick, acidic sludge, obliterating every living thing.
Now her western side is primed to go.
The tension builds
Early in the summer, the volcano woke like a fussy baby after a long nap, burping and bawling, grabbing everyone’s attention, and mobilizing politicians, the media, and emergency response teams to prepare for a major catastrophe. For months, regal Rainier has entertained her surrounding human subjects like an eccentric hostess at a cocktail party. Trembling, grumbling, puffing smoke—fierce and lively one moment, silent and sulking the next.
In her shadow, life continues. People sleep through the night, get up, and go to work. Families argue, play, walk the dog, and love each other. Like the story of the boy who cried wolf, people find it easier and easier to ignore Rainier’s dramatics as everyday life reclaims them. Politicians give in to pressure from loggers and business owners losing revenue due to road closures. Government agencies run out of money for maintaining watches and road blocks. Life in Seattle and surrounding communities returns to business as usual.
Only a handful of scientists and researchers remain vigilant and concerned.
They know what’s coming
They gauge the tremors beneath her, noticing how her shape is changing, like the burgeoning of a woman preparing to give birth. She is distending under the building pressure within, equalized only by the yards-thick layer of snow pack pressing down from without. They worry that the icy shell is cracking, destabilized by the earthquakes and the heat of the magma as it travels up into the throat of the volcano. They fear that a few degrees more, and the coat of snow will slide down the mountainside like butter off a hotcake, triggering an avalanche of unparalleled proportions.
They know what will happen next. The enormous weight rolling off Rainier’s western shoulder will allow the inexorable pressure of gas and hot rock to spurt forth, uncontained, blowing aside the weak, altered rock in a savage eruption with a power 7500 times greater than the atomic blast at Hiroshima.
A poisonous plume of ash and gas will rise into a hideously exaggerated mushroom cloud extending miles into the sky, where the negatively charged ash will clash violently with the positively charged gas to spawn a hellish network of lightning bolts and streaking balls of fire.
It will be the deadliest day in American history—ending lives, changing lives, reminding people how precious life is.
And how precarious.
Prologue to disaster
What you’ve just read is the prologue to Steadman’s Blind, and the volcano is just the beginning of Steadman’s tense and perilous journey. It’s an exciting story, with engaging characters and some heart-wrenching and feel-good moments.
I invite you to check them out. You might also like to know that I’m currently working on the next book in the Riley Forte series and I’ve already completed a number of additional Steadman stories. Watch for those in future releases.
How about you? What’s your favorite disaster thriller or adventure story? Tell us about it in the comments.