Oso Slide Communities Receive Washington Medal Of Valor

Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the deadly Oso landslide.SPC. MATTHEW SISSEL, 122D PAOC WASHINGTON NATIONAL GUARD

Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the deadly Oso landslide.
SPC. MATTHEW SISSEL, 122D PAOC WASHINGTON NATIONAL GUARD

 

By Austin Jenkins, KPLU

 

Sunday marks one year since a deadly landslide near Oso, Washington, killed 43 people.

Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee awarded the state Medal of Valor to four communities affected by the natural disaster. The ceremony took place during a joint session of the state legislature.

Volunteer rescuer Quinn Nations accepted the award on behalf of the town of Darrington.

“You know we appreciate it on behalf of Darrington, it’s quite the honor,” he said. “But I hope you have about 2,000 more of them because there’s a lot of people here who deserve one of ‘em. Steve Skaglund said it best when he made a statement about the slide, he said ‘look what the American people can do if you just untie their hands’”

Skaglund is a logger who used heavy equipment to help build a bypass road around the area of highway covered by the slide.

The Washington state Medal of Valor recognizes individuals who risk serious injury or death to save or attempt to save the life of another. This year the decision was to give the honor to the many individuals from the surrounding area who were involved in the rescue, recovery and relief efforts following the landslide.

Meanwhile, Washington lawmakers are considering two Oso-related measures. One clarifies that a statewide fire mobilization can be declared in the event of the major natural disaster. That request was denied after Oso because it wasn’t a fire.

A second piece of legislation would require the state Geological Survey to use the best readily-available technology to identify and map hazard zones.

The most obvious example of this is using Lidar technology — something akin to a three-dimensional x-ray of landforms — to map these hazards. The bill would also require the Geological Survey to create and make publicly available a database of Lidar and geological hazard maps.

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources is requesting nearly $7 million to expand its Lidar mapping program.

Something that is not under consideration in the Capitol is a requirement for a special disclosure statement when homes or property in a mapped hazard zone are sold. This is a requirement in California.

Grateful drivers line up for Highway 530 bypass road

Mark Mulligan / The HeraldVehicles kick up dust as they travel eastbound on the service road bypass of Highway 530 toward Darrington Tuesday afternoon. Photo taken 20140429

Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Vehicles kick up dust as they travel eastbound on the service road bypass of Highway 530 toward Darrington Tuesday afternoon. Photo taken 20140429

 

By Chris Winters,  The Herald

OSO — The single-lane access road that bypasses the debris field of the Oso mudslide opened Tuesday morning.

It didn’t take long for grateful commuters to line up. State Department of Transportation spokesman Travis Phelps said as many as 60 vehicles at a time queued up to make the trip past the slide zone on the first day.

The access road off Highway 530 is accessible around the clock to local traffic, providing a much-needed lifeline to Darrington.

All trips are escorted through with a pilot car, leaving eastbound at the bottom of the hour and westbound at the top of the hour.

In many ways, it’s like a ferry line for passage to a remote island, with cars queueing up and neighbors getting out to chat to await the signal for the convoy to move forward.

Naomi Lieurance had gone to an appointment in Mount Vernon Tuesday morning with her shi tzu, Harley, via the Highway 20 route.

She had heard about the road opening during the day and was now waiting in line in Oso to return home to Darrington, hoping the new route will improve her access to the rest of the county.

“It’s got to be better than the Mountain Loop Highway,” she said.

She chatted in line with fellow Darrington resident Jake Sowers, who came over the access road earlier in the morning with his wife and was now heading home.

“I didn’t think it was as bad as I thought it was,” Sowers said. Approximately two dozen vehicles, including several logging trucks, made the 1:30 p.m. trip past the slide area to Darrington.

The view along the two-mile access road is not for the faint of heart, however.

The route skirts the edges of the slide zone. Trackhoes and construction vehicles below are dwarfed by a surrounding sea of rolling hillocks of mud and giant piles of broken timber. An American flag hangs from halfway up a denuded tree trunk.

The convoy passes stands of birch trees with new leaves and a pile of mangled cars. Behind it all is the exposed slope of the 650-foot cliff that slammed down into the valley on March 22.

“The horrific magnitude of it doesn’t sink in until you’ve seen it,” said Sowers, who laid eyes on the slide for the first time Tuesday morning.

A former ship’s mate, Sowers said, “I’ve seen some sad things in my life. I once surveyed a sunken ship, and this is right up there with it.”

The unpaved route is steep in places, with the convoy kicking up dust as it creeps over the hills.

According to the transportation department, only local traffic will be able to use the access road, and logging trucks will be able to use the road between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

No vehicles pulling trailers are permitted. The speed limit is a constant 10 miles per hour, and no stopping is permitted along the two-mile route.

The pilot cars and security at the two ends of the road are staffed by contractors hired by the state. Granite Construction Co. of Everett has been awarded a $3.4 million contract to maintain the access road and drive the pilot cars. Another firm, Seattle-based Central Protection, is providing security services.

The route is expected to remain open until at least one lane of Highway 530 is reopened. When that will happen is not immediately known, Phelps said.

President Obama sees Oso mudslide devastation first-hand

Carolyn Kaster / Associated PressMarine One, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of the Oso mudslide site on Tuesday.

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press
Marine One, carrying President Barack Obama, takes an aerial tour of the Oso mudslide site on Tuesday.

 

By Rikki King and Amy Nile, The Herald

EVERETT — President Barack Obama saw the devastation of the Oso mudslide for himself today, touring the area by helicopter.

Marine One flew directly over the site, giving him a view of the massive debris field and blocked North Fork Stillaguamish River

A couple of bright-yellow excavators could be seen operating below, digging in the earth as part of the ongoing effort to recover the bodies of those who died. Amid the wreckage, an American flag flew at half staff.

Marine One touched down at Arlington Airport about 1:30 p.m.

The president then headed off by motorcade to Oso.

The visit marks one month since the disaster that took at least 41 lives and destroyed part of a state highway.

The president planned to meet with victims’ families, survivors and first responders in Oso.

Obama last visited Snohomish County in 2012 to tour the Boeing Co.’s 787 production line at Paine Field. He is the sixth sitting president to set foot in the county, and the first to come here after a public tragedy.

Air Force One, a 747-200 built in Everett, touched down at Paine Field at 12:38 p.m. Those waiting to greet the president included Gov. Jay Inslee, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene.

The governor, Murray and Cantwell accompanied Obama in his helicopter.

A sparse crowd gathered nearby to watch, but they were outnumbered by media and officials.

The president was expected to meet face-to-face with people who have been wrestling with the loss and challenges since the hillside fell on March 22.

Police and fire vehicles were lining up along the Arlington Airport entrance by 11:30. Snohomish County Sheriff’s Lt. Rodney Rochon leaned out his window to greet the arriving state motorcycle troopers. Black SUVs with Maryland plates followed them in onto the airfield.

Families and couples with babies and lawn chairs arrived at the airport, hoping for a glimpse of the president. They looked up as helicopters hummed overhead. Some waved at the sky. A toddler in a yellow jacket played in the grass, her mother’s watchful eye following her.

By 1:15 p.m., engines were running in the motorcade. Secret Service agents gave the vehicles a quick rub with dust rags, making them shine. They straightened the small flags on SUVs and applied a presidential seal decal.

Activity in the motorcade became still as multiple CV-22 Ospreys and other aircraft landed on the tarmac at Arlington Airport.

Firefighters from Arlington and Marysville snapped pictures as Obama got into the motorcade and headed away toward Oso.

Larsen, who grew up in Arlington, said in a prepared statement. “The President’s visit today underscores the country’s commitment to helping Oso and Darrington heal and recover. I am pleased President Obama will meet with survivors and community leaders to hear their stories. He will learn about the many challenges of rebuilding but also the incredible resilience of the people in these communities.”

Obama “will see this strength in action today,” Larsen said.

Aboard Air Force One en route to Everett, press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the Obama administration “remains focused on supporting the state and local efforts, and first responders.”

The president earlier declared a major disaster in Oso, freeing up resources.

“I think the purpose of the visit, which will include remarks delivered at the Oso firehouse, is to view firsthand the aftermath of the terrible mudslide there, and to meet directly with those who lost loved ones and have suffered so much in this terrible tragedy,” Carney said.

Officials have now identified all 41 of the people confirmed to have died in the slide. Two other people presumed killed remain missing.

Highway 530 remains blocked. A flood warning is in place for the area east of the slide along the North Fork Stillaguamish River until Thursday afternoon.

The Secret Service began arriving in Arlington, Darrington and Oso weeks ago after Obama’s visit was announced. Military aircraft could be seen flying in Marysville and Arlington over the weekend as the president’s visit approached.

Obama last was here on Feb. 17, 2012, when he toured The Boeing Co. plant in Everett and spoke to factory workers. That year was the first time in nearly two decades that a serving president visited the county.

After visiting Snohomish County, Obama is scheduled to go to Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to the Associated Press.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that assistance had been approved for people in the Arlington, Darrington and Oso areas whose commutes to work, school and medical appointments are detoured around the slide, through Skagit County. That will happen through individual FEMA assistance applications.

Businesses that need help should contact the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/disaster or 800-659-2955.

Pool reports contributed to this story.

 

Preparations under way for president’s visit

Mark Mulligan / The HeraldMembers of the Washington State National Guard sort through debris south of the berm helping drain water from the mudslide site Friday morning.

Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Members of the Washington State National Guard sort through debris south of the berm helping drain water from the mudslide site Friday morning.

 

By Rikki King and Eric Stevick, The Herald

EVERETT — President Barack Obama will visit the site of the Oso mudslide today, marking one month since the disaster that took at least 41 lives and destroyed a state highway.

The president will meet with victims’ families, survivors and first responders.

Much of those conversations will be private, though some may be able to catch a glimpse of Air Force One landing at Paine Field in Everett about 12:30 p.m.

Few other details were made public Monday about the president’s itinerary.

The confirmed death toll from the slide rose to 41 Monday, with two people still listed as missing. This weekend, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle released the last of its patients injured in the slide.

A local incident-management team is expected to take over command at the site again this week, another sign that the massive operation is shifting gears.

Highway 530 remains blocked. A flood warning is in place for the area east of the slide along the North Fork Stillaguamish River until Thursday afternoon.

The Secret Service began arriving in Arlington, Darrington and Oso weeks ago after Obama’s visit was announced. Military aircraft could be seen flying in Marysville and Arlington over the weekend as the president’s visit approached.

The day will mark Obama’s second visit to Snohomish County while serving as president. He last was here on Feb. 17, 2012, when he toured The Boeing Co. plant in Everett and spoke to factory workers.

That year was the first time in nearly two decades that a serving president visited the county.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said he is looking forward to speaking with Obama.

“To meet the president is just going to be beyond words for me,” Lovick said Monday.

Lovick was raised in Robeline, La., where the population now is just 179 people, he said.

“I never thought I would meet a city councilman let alone the president,” Lovick said.

Many local police officers and firefighters also are expected to play a role in today’s visit. They were unable to provide details, though, deferring questions to the White House.

The presidential visit two years ago cost local police and fire departments and county government more than $30,000. The expenditures included overtime staffing and fuel.

After visiting Snohomish County, Obama is scheduled to go to Asia, with stops in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia, according to the Associated Press.

Lives continue to be disrupted by the slide.

On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that assistance had been approved for people in the Arlington, Darrington and Oso areas whose commutes to work, school and medical appointments are detoured around the slide, through Skagit County. That will happen through individual FEMA assistance applications.

Businesses that need help should contact the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/disaster or 800-659-2955.

The Arlington School District has been sending a school bus to pick up students in Darrington, most of whom have opted to stay in the district for the rest of the school year.

Many students who live east of the slide are staying with family and friends in Arlington on school nights. At least two families have transferred students between the Arlington and Darrington school districts to avoid the lengthy detour, school officials said.

Also on Monday, two high-ranking prosecutors urged people to be aware of potential fraud related to the mudslide. Western Washington’s U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan and Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe warned people thinking about scamming mudslide victims or the government that they will face the full brunt of the law if they are caught.

“We will not be here to throw the book at you,” Roe said. “We will be here to throw the whole library.”

So far, there have been anecdotal reports of possible fraud, but no concrete evidence, Durkan said.

The prosecutors said fraud has been a common problem after other national disasters and they want to get in front of it in Oso.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud has documented many cases that resulted in prosecutions. In one instance, a woman was sentenced to three years in prison after falsely claiming she had a home in Mississippi that was destroyed when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. She also received temporary shelter from a charity where she stole the identities of hurricane victims and charged thousands of dollars on credit cards she took out in their names. “We will protect the victims and we will prosecute those that try to turn this tragedy into criminal profit,” Durkan said.

Among other tips, the prosecutors said people making donations should never be feel pressured to contribute and should never give personal or financial information to anyone who solicits money. They also referred anyone suspicious of fraud in relief efforts to contact the National Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Patrol continues to remind people that there is no public access to view the mudslide. The roadblocks are several miles away.

The Patrol continues to turn away as many as two dozen cars a day, trooper Keith Leary said.

“The area is not a tourist attraction, and the high level of respect for those who are still missing and their families is our priority,” Leary said.

 

 

 

Death Toll In Mudslide Rises To 39

A road sign advising the closure of Highway 530 stands near a small display of flowers and a cross Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Darrington, Wash.Elaine Thomopson AP Photo

A road sign advising the closure of Highway 530 stands near a small display of flowers and a cross Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Darrington, Wash.
Elaine Thomopson AP Photo

By The Associated Press

The death toll from the mudslide that hit the Washington town of Oso has risen to 39.

The Snohomish County medical examiner’s office announced two more victims Wednesday and said it’s trying to identify three of the bodies.

The sheriff’s office still lists seven people as missing from the March 22 landslide that buried dozens of homes in the community about 55 miles northeast of Seattle.

Recovery workers with dogs are probing the debris, and the state Transportation Department is making plans to clear a mile-long stretch of Highway 530 that is covered with mud and trees up to 25 feet deep.

Native Landslide Survivor Describes Devastating Wall of Mud; Missing Reduced to 30

Ted S. Warren, APRobin Youngblood poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2014, with Whitehorse Mountain behind her in Darrington, Wash. Youngblood survived the massive mudslide that hit the nearby community of Oso, Wash. last Saturday, and was rescued by a helicopter as she floated on a piece of a roof.

Ted S. Warren, AP
Robin Youngblood poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2014, with Whitehorse Mountain behind her in Darrington, Wash. Youngblood survived the massive mudslide that hit the nearby community of Oso, Wash. last Saturday, and was rescued by a helicopter as she floated on a piece of a roof.

 

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

Wind and rain over the weekend have been hampering recovery efforts in the one-square-mile debris field that used to be Oso, Washington before it was obliterated by March 22’s devastating landslide.

The official count of the dead rose to 18 on Saturday March 29 as more bodies were pulled from the wreckage, but the number of missing was reduced to 30, from 90. One of the confirmed fatalities was 4-month-old Sanoah Violet Huestis, who was being babysat by her grandmother, 45-year-old Christina Jefferds. Jefferds also perished. In all, authorities had confirmed 17 dead by Friday evening March 28, though they had found several others who were not yet added to the total, pending identification.

RELATED: At Least 108 Could Be Missing in Washington State Landslide Near Sauk-Suattle Territory

Robin Tekwelus Youngblood was one of the survivors, though she lost everything except a painting. The Okanagon/Tsalagi woman was sitting in her house with a friend, she told the Associated Press, when she heard a roar that sounded like a crashing airplane, then looked out the window just in time to see a wall of mud hurtling toward her mobile home. Within seconds, it was all over.

“All I could say was ‘Oh my God’ and then it hit us,” she told AP. “Two minutes was the whole thing.”

The force of the slide tore off the roof and shoved her mobile home upward. Youngblood and the friend were able to dig out and waited about an hour for help.

Tribes have rushed in to donate personnel, money and other assistance.

RELATED: Tribes Assist Landslide Relief Effort With Personnel, Donations and Prayers

Youngblood, whose Cherokee family helped found the nearby town of Darrington in the early 1900s, is still coming to terms with the devastation. Forced out of their homelands when the Cherokee were relocated to Oklahoma and Arkansas, Youngblood’s family had kept going and moved to Washington, AP said. Youngblood moved back to the area from Hawaii, where she had been living until about two years ago.

“Several times this week I’ve said, ‘I need to go home now,’ ” she said. “Then I realize, there’s no home to go to.”

The cherished painting, named “Wolf Vision,” is of a Cherokee warrior, according to the Seattle Times. It came floating by as she clung to the wreckage of her roof, waiting for rescuers. It now is one of her few remaining possessions.

“I’m grateful to be alive,” Youngblood told AP. “I have no idea how I came out without being crushed from limb to limb.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/30/native-landslide-survivor-describes-devastating-wall-mud-missing-reduced-90-154234