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Dr. Harry Dalton and his partner, Marianne, attempt to escape an eruption in Colombia.

A piece of debris
pierces through the roof of Harry's truck, killing Marianne.

Four years later, Harry is assigned by his superior, Dr. Paul Dreyfus, to investigate seismic activity near
Dante's Peak, Washington, a town that borders a dormant stratovolcano. Harry arrives at the town,
where he meets the mayor, Rachel Wando, and her children, Graham and Lauren.

Rachel offers to take Harry with them as they see her former mother-in-law, Ruth, who lives near a lake
at the base of the volcano. While exploring, they find dead trees, dead squirrels, and even two people
boiled to death by a hot spring. Harry tries to convince Rachel and the executives to prepare the town
for a possible disaster, while he is discussing this, Paul arrives with his team (who were at the local
motel) and explains that years ago, he feared that Mammoth Mountain was going to erupt and warned a
few towns around it, however it didn't erupt. But the rumor had been leaked out to the public and
caused tourists to stay away. Which nearly resulted in a town becoming bankrupt. He explains that they
will be there to see if the volcano really is going to erupt. But the signs of an eruption could also be a
false alarm. Harry later falls into a budding romance with Rachel. He warns her that if the volcano does
erupt violently, the eruption would reach the town within a minute. A few days later, Harry, and a
geologist, Terry, go up the mountain, and send a robot invented by Paul's team known as "Spiderlegs"
down into the crater to examine the crater of the volcano, but it gets stuck, so Terry goes down into the
crater to try and fix it. As he does this, an earthquake shakes the mountain, causing an an avalanche that
buries Terry alive. Harry then goes into the crater to save him and sees that he is trapped, and suffering a
broken leg; the team, which was watching the event happen through the robot's camera, sends a
helicopter up to rescue them. Harry attaches himself and Terry to the Helicopter and the two are lifted
out of the crater. They safely return to town, as Terry is taken to the hospital. Harry argues with Paul,
saying that the earthquake was Harmonic, and to put the town on alert but Paul dismisses it. Claiming
that the Earthquake was merely tectonic. And then tells Harry that unless he has proof before they leave
in a few days, that he should calm down. He also tries to discuss the threat with his colleagues but they
also don't believe him. After another week with no activity, they suggest that the worse is over and
prepare to leave the following morning.

During the night, Harry and the USGS team are preparing to leave, but while at Rachel's home, he
discovers that the local water has become contaminated. Harry and Rachel drive up to the town's water
supply to find that it is contaminated with sulfur dioxide. Harry tells Rachel that Mount Pinatubo in the
Philippines had shown the same signs before it erupted. They then drive back to the town, and Harry
shows the contaminated water to Paul. The next day, earthquake and gas levels rise dramatically, they
then realize that it is only a matter of time before the volcano will erupt. Paul alerts the National Guard
but they won't be able to arrive until the next day. Harry calls Rachel about the imminent disaster who
then tells those watching the television, while the town's sheriff alerts those who are not watching the
TV about the threat. Later, Rachel tries to tell Ruth to come down from the mountain but she doesn't
want to leave and hangs up. Harry and Rachel then go to the high school gymnasium for the town where
they are discussing the evacuation plan. As they start to prepare the town for an orderly evacuation, the
volcano suddenly erupts, sending everyone into a panicking frenzy.

Harry and Rachel drive through the crumbling village to the house and find out that Lauren and Graham
have gone up to the mountain to get Ruth. They drive through the river, as the bridge leading out of the
town was too crowded, while also avoiding a helicopter crash after the ash stalls it. As they race towards
the lodge, they are hit by a landslide that blocks the road behind them. They arrive to see the three.
Ruth suggests that they leave but Rachel tells her that they can't, as the way back is gone. Just as they
pack up some belongings, a lava flow engulfs her cabin, and destroys the cars; the five attempt to retreat
by crossing a lake on a motorboat. Halfway across, they notice that all the fish in the lake are dead. Harry
notices steam rising from the boat and realizes that the lake has become acidic due to sulfur-rich gases
from the volcanic activity, destroying the motor and eating away at the boat. Ruth jumps into the acidic
water and pulls the boat to the shore; she later dies from chemical burns. Meanwhile, the heat from the
volcano has melted the snow and glaciers on it. Now becoming a lahar, it over tops a nearby dam and
causes it to collapse. The flood races down the river towards the town. Elsewhere, the family takes a
truck from a ranger's station and start driving back to the town.

Meanwhile, the National Guard has arrived and volunteers to help the USGS team evacuate, but as they
cross the bridge, the lahar strikes, causing the bridge to loosen up. Paul, still on the bridge in a van, is
thrown in the river to his death.

Harry, Rachel, and the kids are stopped when their vehicle gets stuck in a crusted lava field. With more
lava beginning to flow down the hill, Harry finally manages to get the truck free. They notice Ruth's dog,
Roughy, on a rock ledge in front of them; they successfully catch her and drive away as the lava flows
over the road behind them. They make it back to the deserted town, where Harry runs inside to the
motel to retrieve a distress radiobeacon. And finds out from a laptop monitoring volcano that it is due
for a final catastrophic eruption. He collects a NASA tracking beacon and speeds towards the entrance to
an abandoned mine, where Graham was caught using it as a clubhouse before. Moments later, the
volcano violently and laterally explodes. A pyroclastic flow descends, destroying everything in its path.
Harry manages to drive into the mine as the cloud follows them. Outside of town, the USGS team believe
Harry to be dead as they watch the eruption from afar.

Harry, Rachel, and the children explore the mine, but Harry realizes that he forgot the beacon in the
truck. When he tries to go back and get it, the mine collapses, causing a rock to break his arm. He then
gets to the truck and gets inside but another collapse nearly crushes the truck, and traps him inside the
truck. However, he still manages to activate the beacon.

Later, Terry notices a beeping light on a monitor, realizing that the distress beacon is activated, and that
Harry is still alive. The USGS dispatches search and rescue teams. Harry and the Wandos are freed from
the mine and flown out by a helicopter. The movie ends, showing the obliterated town before turning to
the foreboding remains of the volcano, now reduced to a menacing caldera, bearing an eerie
resemblance to Mount St. Helens. Ominous music builds up, hinting that it will erupt again in the
unknown future.