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March 22, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Evacuees worry about rising Stillaguamish River

(Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol trooper Mark Francis)

(Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol)

UPDATE 4:35 p.m.:  The home of Tim and Brandy Ward was swept away in today’s mudslide. Tim Ward was taken to Harborview Medical Center with a fractured pelvis and Brandy Ward is still missing, son-in-law James Burdette said. Burdette is at the Red Cross shelter set up at Post Middle School in Arlington with his wife and 9-month-old son waiting for updates.

James Burdette, 40, with 9-month-old son Asher at the Red Cross shelter at Post Middle School in Arltington  (by Mike Carter  /TheSeattle Times

James Burdette, 40, with 9-month-old son Asher, at the Red Cross shelter at Post Middle School in Arlington (by Mike Carter /The Seattle Times


UPDATE 3:50 p.m.: At the fire station in Oso, families gathered,  as people from neighboring houses brought coffee, and dozens of emergency responders worked on evacuation plans.

A woman who declined to give her name said she hadn’t been able to find her sister.

Cheryl Burrows, 56, lives on Steelhead Drive,  was not at home at the time of the slide, but later made her way to the fire station in Oso to await news. She said she has four dogs and a cat trapped in her house. About Steelhead Drive, she said the authorities told her, ”There is nothing left in there.”

Carrie Davis lives in Bothell, but just built a house where she planned to spend her retirement. It’s on Whitman Road, overlooking the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. The area was evacuated this morning. “This is a catastrophe,” she said.

Debris from destroyed homes slid into the river, essentially plugging it. “We got to see a river stop,” Davis said. She feared that if the river spilled over, her home would also be destroyed.

UPDATE 3:35 p.m.:| 

Of the five landslide victims at Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington, one had been released and four others were still being treated as of 3 p.m. Three of the four apparently have minor injuries and could be released later today, said Heather Logan, assistant hospital administrator.

The slide split road access in the community of Oso, so victims east of the debris were taken to Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, said Logan.

People are already dropping off blankets, boots, coats and other items at the hospital entrance, to be taken to any families taking shelter at Post Middle School.

Brenda Roberson of Arlington, dropping off comforters, said she has friends in a trailer park where an evacuation order was just given along the river near Arlington.  Besides being emotionally moved, Roberson said giving is a small way to help an area that’s also grappling with growth and crime. “I just want to help take back the town of Arlington, people helping people,” she said.

UPDATE 3 p.m.:|  News release from Snohomish County Sheriff, urging people to avoid area and confirming two deaths. Victims not yet identified: 

It has been confirmed that two people have died as a result of the landslide across State Route 530 between the cities of Arlington and Darrington.  Identification of the victims is pending from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner.

The landslide was first reported around 10:45 this morning at the 29400 block of SR 530, near milepost 37.  At least six houses have been confirmed to have been destroyed, but we are still assessing how many other structures may have been affected.  The cause of the slide is believed to be ground water saturation from heavy rainfall in the area previously this month.

The slide has cut off the city of Darrington and is blocking the North Fork of the Sillaguamish River at Whitman Rd.  First reports are that the slide is at least 45 yards wide and 60 yards across.  SR 530 is completely closed and the public is asked to avoid the area.

Several emergency response crews have since responded, including Washington State Patrol, Department of Transportation, Department of Emergency Management (DEM), US Navy, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the fire department agencies in north Snohomish County.

One helicopter with the Sheriff’s Office is currently transporting victims and the other helicopter is surveying the area from the air for DEM. Among those transported from the area were at least five adults and one six month-old child to local hospitals.

UPDATE 2:50 p.m.: A 6-month-old baby boy is in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, said a hospital spokeswoman. Three other patients are there and one more is on the way.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: One patient has been treated and released from the Cascade Valley Hospital; four others remain. Jennifer Egger, community-relations coordinator for the hospital, said an emergency shelter has been opened at Post Middle School in Arlington. Chaplains are on standby to offer patient comfort and support.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.:  At least two people have been confirmed dead in the mudslide east of Arlington, according to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Lt. Rodney Rochon, head of special operations for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, said at least six houses were destroyed. Authorities are unsure how many more were affected.

He said  a 6-month-old baby was airlifted from the scene to Harborview Medical Center. Three or four others sent to area hospitals. Over 100 rescuers looking for other  people who may have been inside the houses. One of the rescue teams had to be rescued after they got stuck in the mud.

Rochon described the mudslide as at least 40 yards wide and 100 yards from top to bottom  The six houses were destroyed on the south side of the rivers.  Authorities are still trying to get to the north side of the river to assess the damage.

Rochon said there is still concerned about water flow in the river, which is backed up by debris.

It will take “easily a week” to unblock the river, according to Rochon.  He said need to first complete the rescue operations and do a broader search before they can bring in heavier equipment.

“I haven’t seen anything like this,” he said.  What remains from the houses, is “not good even for construction material.”

UPDATE 2:25 p.m.: Harborview Medical Center confirms they have received patients from the mudslide, at least one in critical condition, said Susan Gregg, hospital spokeswoman.

UPDATE 2:15 p.m.: “I came within about 50 feet of being washed out,” said Paulo de Oliveira of Lynnwood, who was driving on Highway 530 when the slide it.

“It happened right in front of me. I was behind a truck pulling a boat, and then it hit.  In three seconds, everything got washed away. Darkness covering the whole roadway and one house right in the middle of the street.”

He heard a woman screaming from one of the homes.

“Along the river, I saw one place where there were two homes and they were just gone. Nothing left but a portable toilet . . . Destruction all over. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

De Oliveira was on his way to pick up his children who live in Darrington with their mother.  He routinely comes up and picks them up for the weekend.

Snohomish County has been saturated with rain this month, establishing the kind of unstable terrain that can lead to mudslides, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The weather service doesn’t keep statistics for the tiny town of Oso, but it does for Arlington, which is about 12 miles southwest. As of March 19 —  the last day for which the weather service has a report — Arlington had recorded 7.14 inches of rain for the month. That’s just two inches shy of the wettest March on record for Arlington, and that total, of 9.23 inches, was for the entire month.

Darrington, another city not far from Oso, received close to an inch of rain on Wednesday alone, Burg said.

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.: Homes near the slide area are being evacuated as emergency workers are concerned that the river water backed up above by the slide may spill around it, potentially affecting a much larger area.  Law-enforcement officers are going door-to-door in the area to evacuate residents.  Emergency workers are also using the reverse 911 phone system to alert people along the highway from the slide area to the town of Arlington, about 14 miles.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.

Cascade Valley Hospital has received four patients, but the severity of the injuries were not disclosed.

UPDATE 12:50 p.m.
Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington has been alerted at least 15 homes may have been wiped out in the slide. No injuries have been reported to the hospital at this time, but officials are encouraging people to bring blankets, clothing and food to the hospital to be ready.

A mudslide, carrying at least one house with people inside, is blocking Highway 530 near Oso, in Snohomish County.

According to State Trooper Mark Francis at least one house is in the slide, which occurred mid-morning, and someone was calling for help.

The trooper said more people may be trapped, and search and rescue crews are headed there.

“The first responders have to do what they do best and they take priority,” said Bart Treece of the Washington State Department of Transportation.



Comments | Topics: landslide, mudslide, Oso mudslide


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