Waters Recede, Helping Search For Mudslide Victims - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Waters Recede, Helping Search For Mudslide Victims

Posted: Updated:
PHOTO: Rescue workers removing debris on the west side of the Oso Mudslide on State Route 530., Photo Credit: Washington National Guard, Photo Date: March 26, 2014 PHOTO: Rescue workers removing debris on the west side of the Oso Mudslide on State Route 530., Photo Credit: Washington National Guard, Photo Date: March 26, 2014
ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) - It is a grim step forward in the search for human remains at a mudslide that crushed a rural Washington community, but an important one: floodwaters at the site are receding, allowing crews to expand their search and yielding more human remains in areas that previously couldn't be reached. The views presented Tuesday on a media tour were chilling: shredded homes and twisted cars.
   
More than 10 days after a large section of a rain-soaked hill crashed down on a neighborhood in the small community of Oso, teams with cadaver dogs are still sifting through debris and soil to determine exactly how many people died in the March 22 mudslide.
   
The mudslide partially dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool. Heavy rain last week added to the flooding. But early this week, the weather was dry and sunny - at least for a few days - allowing more crews to switch from water pumping to searching.
   
"A lot of logjam areas, that's where we're finding human remains," search effort division supervisor Steve Harris said on Tuesday.
   
The National Weather Service forecast rain to return Thursday and Friday with a chance of showers through the weekend. Any rain complicates the job of workers in the muck and increases the risk of flooding.
   
Here are some facts and observations in one of the worst natural disasters to hit Washington state in this century:
   
THE DEAD:
   
Officials have so far confirmed the deaths of 29 people, although only 22 have been officially identified in information released Wednesday morning by the Snohomish County medical examiner's office. They range in age from 4-month-old Sonoah Heustis to 71-year-old Lewis F. Vandenburg. A total of 20 people are missing. They range in age from 2-year-old Brooke Sillers to Bonnie J. Gullikson, 91. Some of the missing and dead are related.
   
THE MUDSLIDE SITE:
   
From a vantage point about a mile from the collapsed hillside, the magnitude of the slide is chilling, even if only a part of it can be seen. Where there was a state highway, there's now a bed of mud and debris as much as 80 feet deep in some spots. There are few signs that a community existed here, replaced now by a field of debris of hundreds of acres. Heavy machinery is dwarfed by the mounds of mud. Crews wearing bright safety clothing trek carefully on paths made of plywood or through deep mud, using poles to assure their footing. Piles of downed trees and branches dot the brown mud field. What were houses, they're now shredded remains. Cars were pancaked and twisted.
   
"The mountain didn't slide like an avalanche that starts at the top and slides down. It actually blew out at the bottom. And all of that energy, because of the weight of top on it, blew across the river and brought all that water and material in it," said Lt. Richard Burke, a firefighter and incident spokesman.
   
The valley then channeled the slide like a bowl.
   
He added: "Like a big soup bowl, it kind of sloshed up the bank and came back down."
   
Nothing has yet been removed from the field. The debris is contaminated with remains of septic tanks and other "contaminants" found in cars and garages. Crews have begun piling up trees and house items in different sections, Burke added.
   
Said Harris: "It's very likely it (a lot of the stuff) won't be recovered. It's just buried there."
   
THE SEARCH FOR HUMAN REMAINS:
   
Crews are being careful in their search for human remains. Harris said boats with sonar are among the pieces of equipment put to use. "Everything moved so much across the landscape, where we find logs and debris is where we're going to find (remains)."
   
The weather helped Tuesday. It was sunny and dry, a stark contrast to the first few days of the recovery operations when a significant percentage of rescue crew members had to focus on de-flooding the area. There were 270 tactical personnel and volunteers present.
   
"We've been able to channel the water. We got less folks controlling the water and more folks with their hands on the ground. And that's what we need," said Burke.
   
The search is painstaking. In expanding their area, crews are using a grid system. But despite the progress, there are parts of the debris field that have not been examined because they are not yet stable.
   
The rain, though, is forecast to come back. As much as 3 inches of rain are expected to fall between Thursday and Sunday.
   
FINANCIAL COSTS:
   
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the mudslide caused about $10 million in damage to homes destroyed in the slide area and their contents. He estimates further costs of $32.1 million for search and recovery efforts, and to remove all the debris. But he says the costs could go higher.
   
HOW LONG WILL THE SEARCH LAST?
   
Harris said: "From what I've seen, it's going to take a long time."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Police impersonator attempts to pull over Spokane woman

    Police impersonator attempts to pull over Spokane woman

    Monday, September 17 2018 8:45 PM EDT2018-09-18 00:45:37 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - "He told me to pull over, and my jaw just dropped," a Spokane woman, who says a fake police officer tried to pull her over, doesn't want to be named. In fear, this could happen again. "It really scared me and kind of threw me off that night. I don't even want to drive by myself anymore," she said. She tells me that she was driving around North Spokane at night on her way home from work. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - "He told me to pull over, and my jaw just dropped," a Spokane woman, who says a fake police officer tried to pull her over, doesn't want to be named. In fear, this could happen again. "It really scared me and kind of threw me off that night. I don't even want to drive by myself anymore," she said. She tells me that she was driving around North Spokane at night on her way home from work. 

    >>
  • Report: Olympia woman refuses to pull over for WSP trooper because she drives a Prius

    Report: Olympia woman refuses to pull over for WSP trooper because she drives a Prius

    Monday, September 17 2018 1:45 PM EDT2018-09-17 17:45:44 GMT

    MARYSVILLE, Wash. - An Olympia woman wouldn't pull over for a Washington State Patrol trooper because she drives a Prius, according to an arrest report.

    >>

    MARYSVILLE, Wash. - An Olympia woman wouldn't pull over for a Washington State Patrol trooper because she drives a Prius, according to an arrest report.

    >>
  • Police: Man killed by Cheney officers planned death

    Police: Man killed by Cheney officers planned death

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 1:27 AM EDT2018-09-18 05:27:11 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Court documents indicate that a man who was killed by Cheney police officers earlier this month had reported himself to police the evening of the shooting. The Spokesman-Review reports 40-year-old Steve Anderson was shot by three officers in a grocery store parking lot after police say he was wielding a knife and moved toward officers. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Court documents indicate that a man who was killed by Cheney police officers earlier this month had reported himself to police the evening of the shooting. The Spokesman-Review reports 40-year-old Steve Anderson was shot by three officers in a grocery store parking lot after police say he was wielding a knife and moved toward officers. 

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • WATCH: Volunteer rescues dog tied to semi-truck pulling out of gas station

    WATCH: Volunteer rescues dog tied to semi-truck pulling out of gas station

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 2:35 PM EDT2018-09-18 18:35:45 GMT

    Talk about being at the right place at the right time. A volunteer with an Arizona Sheriff's Office helps rescue a dog attached to a moving semi-truck. The Yavapai County "volunteer in protection" officer pulling out of a gas station during his break at the same time tractor trailer heads up the interstate with forgotten cargo.  The patrol notices the dog running as the pet's leash remains attached to the rig.  

    >>

    Talk about being at the right place at the right time. A volunteer with an Arizona Sheriff's Office helps rescue a dog attached to a moving semi-truck. The Yavapai County "volunteer in protection" officer pulling out of a gas station during his break at the same time tractor trailer heads up the interstate with forgotten cargo.  The patrol notices the dog running as the pet's leash remains attached to the rig.  

    >>
  • Cop, firefighter among 24 charged in child luring sting in New Jersey

    Cop, firefighter among 24 charged in child luring sting in New Jersey

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 1:42 PM EDT2018-09-18 17:42:14 GMT

    New Jersey authorities say a police officer and a firefighter were among 24 men who tried to lure teenagers for sexual activity.    Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says the men charged in the statewide sting used social media and chat apps to communicate with people they thought were teenage boys and girls. But they were actually talking with undercover officers.   

    >>

    New Jersey authorities say a police officer and a firefighter were among 24 men who tried to lure teenagers for sexual activity.    Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says the men charged in the statewide sting used social media and chat apps to communicate with people they thought were teenage boys and girls. But they were actually talking with undercover officers.   

    >>
  • Middle schoolers hospitalized after being exposed to drugs on the playground in California

    Middle schoolers hospitalized after being exposed to drugs on the playground in California

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 1:34 PM EDT2018-09-18 17:34:18 GMT

    Police say a 13-year-old boy brought two balloons filled with cocaine to his school in Terra Bella, California.  Two students found the balloons and immediately notified teachers once seeing they contained a white powdery substance. Police responded to the scene determining the balloons were filled with cocaine.  A total of 13 kids were evaluated for exposure to the drug.  

    >>

    Police say a 13-year-old boy brought two balloons filled with cocaine to his school in Terra Bella, California.  Two students found the balloons and immediately notified teachers once seeing they contained a white powdery substance. Police responded to the scene determining the balloons were filled with cocaine.  A total of 13 kids were evaluated for exposure to the drug.  

    >>