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More Bodies Found In Mudslide Debris

It's another wet day of rescue efforts at the landslide in Snohomish County. As of last night, two more bodies were recovered, while eight more were located.

That brings the likely death toll to 24, though authorities are keeping the official toll at 16 until the eight other bodies are recovered.

And, as another day passes with no sign of survivors, it’s easy to see emotion on the face of officials. Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management Director John Pennington broke down during a press conference when describing the response to the devastating mudslide.

“A brief pause to thank all of the local community support and volunteers.  We are humbled beyond belief in this county,” Pennington said.

The National Weather Service says the rain and showers forecast through the weekend in Western Washington will make the search and recovery effort at the mudslide site messy.

It will also increase soil instability in the area. Forecasters say one to three inches of rain could fall by the weekend, adding moisture to hillsides, including the one that gave way Saturday.

Part of that mudslide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Oso.

The river is flowing through the blockage, but forecasters say there is some flooding upstream and the threat of a flash flood downstream if the debris dam suddenly gave way.

Alternative Way Around

The mudslide has cut the town of Darrington off from its main access to the Interstate 5 corridor. Where it took 40 minutes to get to I-5 from Darrington, it now takes about an extra hour on top of that to go around.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee promised the town Monday night a faster way around. Officials are planning to reopen the Mountain Loop Highway, which has been closed for the winter, in the next few days. The road will need to be checked and some repair work and snow removal completed.

“That’s going faster than we thought so that Darrington won’t be so cut off,” Inslee said. “People can get to work; they can get to school. That’s very important to this community of Darrington and I think that’s going to get done.”

People from Darrington applauded the good news while gathered in the bleachers of a town hall to hear Inslee and emergency response commanders talk about what’s next.

They also gave a standing ovation for townspeople who had helped each other out in the days after the mudslide.

But the biggest applause by far was for the school superintendent, who told members of the media to leave children alone when they go back to school for the first time since last week.

Pennington said that the community of Darrington is regaining services lost by the slide.  An on-site paramedic team is being dispatched.  Also, bus service is starting to get residents to and from Everett for groceries, pharmaceuticals and other needs.


Crisis Line: On Tuesday regional responders set up an emergency crisis phone number. This one isn’t just for relatives of victims or those who’ve lost their homes. It’s for the entire community – anyone who is dealing with emotions after this huge disaster: 800.584.3578

Volunteers: Authorities stress there’s no need for more volunteers for search and rescue operations. They have said the best way to help is to send monetary donations.

Lisa Brooks, Phyllis Fletcher and Sara Lerner contributed to reporting.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.