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March 23, 2014 at 1:07 PM

River breaking its way through mud clog

The dammed up Stillaguamish River has started to break though a hole in the mile-wide mud wall, releasing some flow downstream, officials say.

Around noon, a breach opened in the mud near Oso, said Shari Ireton, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s not flowing at a rate that causes concern. There is water coming through. They don’t feel it is going to be a catastrophic burst,” she said.

On Saturday, a collapsed hillside killed several people and covered the river valley.

On Saturday, emergency responders evacuated lowland homes for fear a sudden break would send a fatal surge of water as far downstream as Stanwood. But Sunday morning, state troopers were letting residents through a roadblock to their homes between the slide zone and Trafton, just east of Arlington.

Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said she isn’t especially worried at this point about severe damage to downstream bridges on Highway 9 and Interstate 5. These bridges do not have any piers midstream, so they’re not vulnerable to debris getting stuck, she said. Bridge engineers will still watch for scour by raging water, at the abutments on either side of the river.

Also, the mudslide is so thick, it’s not likely to break suddenly, like a thin debris dam would, she said, so water can find its course more slowly, in many directions.

A million cubic yards of dirt, trees and debris block the river valley, Gov. Jay Inslee said.

The river dropped as much as five feet elevation, as water became trapped by the slide.

MORE COVERAGE:

Inslee: ‘The scope of this is almost unbelievable’

18 people unaccounted for in slide; voices heard, then gone

‘When the slide hit the river, it was like a tsunami’

3 die in mudslide east of Arlington, 6 homes destroyed

Five injured in slide are at Harborview Medical Center

Survivor tells of loud crack, wall of mud, house ‘in sticks’

Recent saturation of rain likely built up to fatal mudslide

WSDOT: Water surge could weaken bridge supports

Comments | More in General news | Topics: Oso mudslide


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