Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this photo taken Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Arlington, Wash., mudslide survivor Robin Youngblood talks about seeing a wall of mud roaring toward her home in nearby Oso, Wash., several days earlier. Youngblood is among the few survivors of the massive, deadly mudslide that destroyed a rural community northeast of Seattle last weekend. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A community ‘changed forevermore’ by deadly slide
First Published Mar 29 2014 06:29 pm • Last Updated Mar 29 2014 06:31 pm

Darrington, Wash. • The search by heavy equipment, dogs and bare hands for victims from the deadly Washington mudslide was going "all the way to the dirt" as crews looked for anything to provide answers for family and friends a week after a small mountainside community was destroyed.

All work on the debris field halted briefly Saturday for a moment of silence to honor those lost. Gov. Jay Inslee had asked people across Washington to pause at 10:37 a.m., the time the huge slide struck on March 22, destroying a neighborhood in the community of Oso north of Seattle. Authorities say they have found at least 25 bodies and 90 remain missing.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"People all over stopped work — all searchers — in honor of that moment, so people we are searching for know we are serious," Snohomish County Fire District 1 battalion chief Steve Mason said.

An American flag had been run up a tree and then down to half-staff at the debris site, he said.

Dan Rankin, mayor of the nearby logging town of Darrington, said the community had been "changed forevermore."

"It’s going to take a long time to heal, and the likelihood is we will probably never be whole," he said.

Among the dozens of missing are a man in his early 20s, Adam Farnes, and his mother, Julie.

"He was a giant man with a giant laugh," Kellie Howe said of Farnes. Howe became friends with him when he moved to the area from Alaska. She said Adam Farnes was the kind of guy who would come into your house and help you do the dishes.

Adam Farnes also played the banjo, drums and bass guitar, she said, and had worked as a telephone lineman and a 911 dispatcher.

"He loved his music loud," she said. "They still have not found him or his mom. They’re going through a hard time right now."


story continues below
story continues below

Finding and identifying all the victims could stretch on for a very long time, and authorities have warned that not everyone may ultimately be accounted for after one of the deadliest landslides in U.S. history.

Rescuers have given a cursory look at the entire debris field 55 miles northeast of Seattle, said Steve Harris, division supervisor for the eastern incident management team. They are now sifting through the rest of the fragments, looking for places where dogs should give extra attention. Only "a very small percentage" has received the more thorough examination, he said.

Dogs working four-hour shifts have been the most useful tool, Harris said, but they’re getting hypothermic in the rain and muck.

"This is western Washington, folks," Harris said. "These people are used to rain."

Commanders are making sure people have the right gear to stay safe in the rain and potentially hazardous materials, and they’re keeping a close eye on the level of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River to be sure nobody is trapped by rising water.

At the debris site Saturday, Mason, the battalion chief, said teams first do a hasty search of any wreckage of homes they find. If nothing is immediately discovered, they do a more detailed, forensic search.

"We go all the way to the dirt," he said.

Crews are also collecting bags of personal belongings that would later be cleaned, sorted and hopefully returned to families.

"What we found out here is everything from pictures to gun safes," Mason said. "Anything you would have at your house."

The huge wall of earth that crashed into the collection of homes followed weeks of heavy rain.

Previous slides triggered by storms included one that killed 150 people in Virginia in the wake of Hurricane Camille in 1969 and another that killed 129 when rain from Tropical Storm Isabel loosened tons of mud that buried the Puerto Rican community of Mameyes in 1985.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.