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Arlington Incident Command: Challenging Response to Oso Mudslide Near Arlington-Darrington Rd

Sat March 29 2014 3:32 am
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Washington landslide rescuers are comparing the search efforts to that of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

As of Friday, March 28, 2014, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed there were 17 dead as a result of a mud slide that occurred on Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 10:37 a.m. The number of people reported missing and unaccounted for remained at 90. Officials state they expect the number of confirmed dead to continue to rise. Five survivors of the slide are still at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Forty-nine homes and structures were destroyed by the mudslide. Some news agencies on March 28, 2014 were reporting 25 dead.

The Incident Command Center for the Oso disaster is in Arlington, Washington, where news media briefings are taking place. The location of the mudslide occurred four miles east of Oso, Washington, where a portion of a hillside forest collapsed into the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and the adjacent valley. Debris from the mudslide dammed the Stillaguamish River and caused flooding that blocked State Route 530 (Arlington-Darrington Road) after smashing through the Steelhead neighborhood, just south of the river.

“When a victim is found out in the field, their position is marked for a helicopter pickup. The helicopter will extract that victim to the holding area, and place them in a truck that’s provided by the National Guard. As you may have heard today, the helicopters can’t fly all the time, which hinders the picking-up of victims out in the field. At night, the victims are transported to the Medical Examiner’s office in Everett. Autopsies are performed, and the process of identification takes place, if possible. The identification process has been very, very challenging. Once identified, we send a chaplain to the family, to notify them of our finding, and after that takes place, a Medical Examiner’s staff person also calls the victim’s family, to arrange for a funeral home. Then, and only then, do we send out a press release identifying that particular victim.”

— Gary Haakenson — Snohomish County Executive Director on Public Safety Issues (Arlington Times).

The disaster site near the intersection of Steelhead Drive and Arlington-Darrington Road is about 14 miles east northeast of Arlington, Washington and about 11 miles east northeast of Arlington Heights, Washington. Darrington is about 11 miles west of the disaster site.

Neighborhood view of disaster site.

Washington State Patrol photo of landslide devastation.

Authorities say they have all but abandoned hope of finding mudslide survivors, but are keeping the official death toll at 17. As of Friday night, there are 90 people confirmed missing from Saturday’s mudslide in Oso, Washington.

Statement from Barbara Tolbert, Arlington Mayor

It has been a difficult few days in our community as we deal with the devastating effects of the Oso slide. With time our hearts will heal, but right now our community is struggling.

On behalf of the Arlington City Council and the Citizens of Arlington, I would like to express our gratitude to Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, Representative Suzan DelBene, Governor Inslee, and all of their staff, who were on site within hours of this tragic event in the community of Oso, east of Arlington. They provided quick response and were able to clear the path for additional state and federal resources to help our community recover from the slide.

Many of you have asked me how Arlington as a community can help our friends and neighbors in need in Oso and Darrington. We are truly blessed with the incredible outpouring of help from our local residents and regional teams to help in the search and rescue in Oso. With the arrival of highly trained crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Washington National Guard, it is now time to let the experts do their job. There are other ways that you can continue to support our friends and neighbors.

The Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation is accepting donations for Oso Landslide Relief. All donations are tax deductible, and 100% of the money will go to the Oso fund with no overhead costs. To give:

• Access

• Take or send your donation to Union Bank, ATTN: Tina Davis at 525 N. Olympic Avenue, Arlington, WA 98223

• Take or send your donation to Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation at 330 S. Stillaguamish Ave, Arlington, WA 98223

The Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross has done a tremendous job of caring for those directly impacted by the slide and flooding, providing shelter, food, clothing, and other services as needed both here and in Darrington. Your financial contribution to the American Red Cross, Snohomish County Chapter will help greatly as they continue to care for those impacted in our community long after the initial recovery is over.

The City of Arlington would also like to thank the following for their incredible support and leadership since Saturday morning: Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary, Snohomish County Councilmembers Ken Klein, Stephanie Wright, Dave Somers, and Terry Ryan, State Senator Kirk Pearson, State Representative Dan Kristiansen, and State Representative Elizabeth Scott.

Most importantly, we would like to thank our emergency responders who have been on scene since the initial calls came in. We are deeply indebted to you for your heroic efforts in the last five days.

Countywide view of disaster site.

Statewide view of disaster site.

See also …
The Arlington Times Oso mudslide’s death toll, number of missing unchanged


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