Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Death Toll Rises From Oso Mudslide, Search Continues For Missing People

[asset-audio[{"description": "KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher reports on Governor Jay Inslee's plan to open up the Mountain Loop Highway in place of state Route 530.", "fid": "21074", "uri": "public://201403/20140325_pf_inslee_0.mp3"}]]

[asset-audio[{"description": "KUOW's Phyllis Fletcher reports from the Darrington Library about the death of retired librarian Linda McPherson in Saturday's mudslide.", "fid": "21073", "uri": "public://201403/20140324_pf_librarian.mp3"}]]

Officials said the scene from Saturday’s mudslide near Oso, Wash., is similar to when Mount St. Helens erupted.

“The devastation is just unrelenting and awesome,” said Governor Jay Inslee at a press conference. He toured the area by helicopter on Sunday. “There really is no stick standing in the path of the slide. And it is a reminder that we live in powerful forces of nature.”

The 1-square-mile mudslide has so far killed eight people, critically injured several people and destroyed about 30 homes.

Inslee said he's received assurance from FEMA Monday that the federal government will be issuing a limited emergency declaration for direct federal assistance to help those affected by the mudslide.

Dozens of people are still missing and authorities warn that number is "fluid." Search and rescue crews were out at first light using aircraft, dogs, and heavy equipment to look for any signs of life.

Snohomish County District 21 Fire Chief Travis Hots described a very difficult environment for those on the scene.

“The conditions are very, very muddy. In places, it is still like quicksand,” Hots said. “We weren’t able to search the entire debris field. We were able to search some areas that were safer and a little bit more dry than other areas. Other areas are just not accessible at this time.”

Along with first responders, geologists are on the ground at the site area to monitor conditions, according to Shari Ireton, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.

“There are concerns about additional slides in the same area that was affected on Saturday. As a result, some of the ground crews have been pulled back,” Ireton said.

Officials are also watching the Stillaguamish River where water was rising after debris from the slide blocked the river. Seven homes were flooded upstream, but floodwaters were said to be stabilizing.

“The number one concern is whether we're going to have this water break through that dam area and how it will end up flowing down river,” said Snohomish County Executive John Lovick. “From what I understand from our hydrologists, it's flowing in a way that they hoped it would flow.”

Carolyn Adolph, Lisa Brooks, Phyllis Fletcher, Jim Gates, Sara Lerner, Deborah Wang and Derek Wang contributed to reporting.

Produced for the Web byKara McDermott.