Podcast | Deadly avalanches that made Pacific Northwest history

Back-to-back disasters in Washington and B.C. killed more than 150 people in 1910. Knute Berger digs into the traumatic circumstances and their fallout.

Men recovering bodies from the train wreck near Wellington, WA

Men recovering bodies from the train wreck near Wellington, Washington. (Washington State Historical Society)

In the stormy winter of 1910, an avalanche struck two stalled trains in Wellington, a railroad outpost in Washington’s Central Cascades. Three days later, another one blanketed dozens of rail workers in the Canadian Selkirks. 

Both events remain the deadliest avalanches in North American history – and both are connected to the rapid expansion and unrivaled power of the railroads in the early 20th century.

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Cascade PBS’ resident historian Knute Berger unpacked these twin disasters in a recent episode of the Mossback’s Northwest video series, but there’s much more left to explore. 

In this episode of Mossback, Berger joins co-host Stephen Hegg to discuss the details of what happened and the impact this trauma had on the region; the labor disputes and power imbalances circling the tragedy; and what accountability looked like at the time. Plus, they go behind the scenes of the Mossback’s Northwest video shoot to share what the train cars and snowplows of the era would have been like – and visit the Seattle cemetery where some Wellington victims are still buried. 

About the Hosts

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.

Stephen Hegg

Stephen Hegg

Stephen is formerly a senior video producer at Crosscut and KCTS 9. He specialized in arts and culture.