Mudslide death toll rises to 24, higher count expected

posted at 10:01 am on March 26, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The death toll in the Oso, Washington mudslide hit 24 unofficially overnight, as more bodies have been located in the devastation. The search and rescue teams are working in dangerous ground, CBS News reports, that looks and acts like quicksand, but they are still holding out hope to find survivors:

The unofficial death toll hit 24 on Tuesday evening as rescue crews braved horrific conditions to comb the muck and debris left by a massive mudslide that obliterated an entire neighborhood in northwest Washington state.

“Unfortunately we didn’t find any signs of life,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots told reporters.

The official death toll had stood at 14, but two more bodies were recovered Tuesday and searchers believed they bhad found eight more, although they were unable to immediately retrieve them, Hots said. That would bring the known death toll to 24, although authorities fear it will go much higher.

More than 200 responders were combing through the muck and debris, trying to find anyone alive.

“That’s our number one priority right now,” Hots said.

Questions are now being asked about whether the state government and/or local officials should have known the risks for the slide. It didn’t happen out of the blue, as the local newspaper Yakima Herald pointed out over the weekend:

Since the 1950s, geological reports on the hill that buckled during the weekend in Snohomish County have included pessimistic analyses and the occasional dire prediction. But no language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, warning of “the potential for a large catastrophic failure.” …

Daniel Miller, a geomorph­ologist, also documented the hill’s landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. He knows the hill’s history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up.

That’s why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones.

“Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river,” he said.

That’s not what one Snohomish County official says:

His perspective stands in contrast to what John Pennington, head of Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management, said at a news conference Monday. “It was considered very safe,” Pennington said. “This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

How could it have been “completely unforeseen”? A similar but smaller slide occurred eight years ago in nearly the same spot, blocking the river and threatening a flood, according to the Herald. No one stopped residential construction in the neighborhood, although the county did require the homes to be on platforms two feet above the base flood level calculated for the area. On Monday, county officials claimed to be completely unaware of the 1999 Corps of Engineers report that predicted this very event.

Right now, the focus is on search and rescue, but at some point it will shift to accountability. There still may be as many as 170 people left to be found — hopefully alive, but that hope is fading quickly.

Update: NBC has an eight-question FAQ to bring people up to speed on the story.


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I’ve had a horrible feeling about this story since it broke. It just keeps getting worse.

Murphy9 on March 26, 2014 at 10:05 AM

But no language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, warning of “the potential for a large catastrophic failure.” …

Daniel Miller, a geomorph­ologist, also documented the hill’s landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes.

vs.

His perspective stands in contrast to what John Pennington, head of Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management, said at a news conference Monday. “It was considered very safe,” Pennington said. “This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

Either there’s no coordination/cooperation between the USACE & WA DoE and local officials, in which case why have the former, or someone’s lying.

rbj on March 26, 2014 at 10:06 AM

There are probably 200 dead buried there, and it will take years to recover them all. I wonder if it shouldn’t just be declared a graveyard and we move on with the living and learning.

NotCoach on March 26, 2014 at 10:08 AM

…they told the developers not to build there…that the area was unstable…the lawyers are going to have a field day!

KOOLAID2 on March 26, 2014 at 10:09 AM

So heartbreaking. Prayers for all involved.

Flora Duh on March 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Well, Ed, you can get hold of me off-line if possible.

My first reaction was why did the officials pull off the rescuers when people were still screaming for help? After all, this was “logging” country where logging is done in less than ‘ideal’ terrain, so why not let the loggers invent rescue methods and procedures?

I got the word from local resident yesterday (to me, that is more reliable news source than the rags) who had lost several life-long friends in the area. Her comment was that even the loggers couldn’t come up with a way to get to the people, much less safely. So, my qualms were relieved it wasn’t the appearance of Inslee and Murray than stopped things. It was the loggers themselves who backed off and it wasn’t an officials edict.

I lost a new friend, who was up there making an estimate for a driveway. There was a hot water heater guy and a cable guy who were also just working in the area at the time of the slide.

As for the slide area, it is a dangerous location in the general vicinity. We didn’t have more rain than normal but March is our high ground water table month. So, that coupled with a 1.1 shaker/earthquake, it was enough to topple.

The river itself in this area is ‘S-shaped’ meaning it goes back and forth depending on what land mass is affecting it at the time. Just west of the slide area (or to the left of the picture) it appears there was a recent slide from the past, too. Further east, near Skaglund Hill, the two lane Highway has trouble staying open due to landslides across the road.

So, generally, the area is landslide prone. However, with respects to geo reports, has a geo ever said any site was safe no matter how innocuous? I think that is a Monday morning QB “gotchas”. So sad they have to refer to that.

bumsteaddithers on March 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

NotCoach on March 26, 2014 at 10:08 AM

http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=58454
Giant Dolomite Boulder & Memorial Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Cosmos Mariner, June 29, 2010

20. Giant Dolomite Boulder & Memorial Marker
On the placard: “Nineteen people lie buried beneath the landslide that you are standing on. Tragedy struck 250 campers in the Madison River Canyon when the 7.5 Richter scale earthquake shook these mountains. Choking dust clouds filled the air. Waves coursed Hebgen Lake and the Madison River. Boulders crashed, mountains slid, families were separated; some members injured, others lost forever. Escape was blocked until help arrived after daylight. A memorial plaque on the large dolomite boulder above and behind this sign commemorates the 28 men, women and children who lost their lives as a result of the Madison River Canyon Earthquake.”

MontanaMmmm on March 26, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Right now, the focus is on search and rescue, but at some point it will shift to accountability. There still may be as many as 170 people left to be found — hopefully alive, but that hope is fading quickly.

Before then there will have to be a shift from recovery to deciding that they’ve done all they can safely do.

Happy Nomad on March 26, 2014 at 10:27 AM

bumsteaddithers on March 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

My condolences for the loss of your friend.

Flora Duh on March 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

bumsteaddithers on March 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

I can’t imagine the working conditions for rescuers are anything but frustrating. Working this much loose dirt and mud has to be one of the most difficult circumstances under which to do rescue operations. And with a river running through it all as well they having flooding concerns as the river tries to find/create a new path. We haul away debris from fallen buildings. How do they haul away debris from a fallen mountain?

NotCoach on March 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Ed, Yakima is not local, the local paper is the Everett Herald. Yakima is on the other side of the Cascade mountains, about 500 miles away.

Jeff Weimer on March 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Sorry, I overstated the distance by too much, it’s about 200 miles away.

Jeff Weimer on March 26, 2014 at 10:30 AM

We’ve spent thirteen years talking about how to fix or replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct that was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. It carries 110,000 cars per day. Seven years ago the mayor of Seattle was told he needed to close the viaduct within four years.

Safety is not priority 1 in Washington. We’re pioneers. We’re forward-thinking. We’re stupid.

29Victor on March 26, 2014 at 10:33 AM

I wonder if it shouldn’t just be declared a graveyard and we move on with the living and learning.

NotCoach on March 26, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Well, living anyway. Learning is against WA state worker union regs.

29Victor on March 26, 2014 at 10:35 AM

Daniel Miller, a geomorph­ologist, also documented the hill’s landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. He knows the hill’s history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up.

That’s why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones.

“Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river,” he said.

His perspective stands in contrast to what John Pennington, head of Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management, said at a news conference Monday. “It was considered very safe,” Pennington said. “This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

Only if there are no qualified geologists at the County Engineer’s office, which has to approve building permits in such matters.

Speaking as a forensics expert who actually studied geology in college (you need to know some very weird sh!t in my line of work), my first question would be, “What is the natural angle of repose for the strata around there?”;

The angle of repose or the critical angle of repose of a granular material is the steepest angle of descent or dip relative to the horizontal plane to which a material can be piled without slumping. At this angle, the material on the slope face is on the verge of sliding. The angle of repose can range from 0° to 90°. Smooth, rounded sand grains cannot be piled as steeply as can rough, interlocking sands. If a small amount of water is able to bridge the gaps between particles, electrostatic attraction of the water to mineral surfaces will increase soil strength.

Here’s a quickie primer;

The angle of repose of a soil is the gradient of the slope at which the soil settles naturally. A firm soil will have a steeper angle of repose than a loose soil.

PROBABLE ANGLES OF REPOSE (NATURAL) (in degrees)

Very wet clay 15

Wet clay 18

Wet sand 25

Sandy gravel 26-27

Dry earth/dry clay 30

Damp sand 33-34

Dry sand 35-36

Shingle 40

Well drained clay/moist earth 45

Clean gravel in natural deposit 5

Note that these values are in degrees above the horizontal, not off the vertical. Big difference.

If the hillside was steeper than the natural or critical AoR, “slumping” is only a matter of time. And among the things that can make it more likely, and also speed up the process, are heavy precipitation putting more water into the soil (which acts as a lubricant once it exceeds the electrostatic attraction threshold), and building things on the top or, worse yet, on the slope face (which increases the mechanical load; putting it on the slope is the “worst case scenario” aka “WTF were they thinking?” method).

Heavy precipitation? We’re talking about Washington state here. They don’t get any other kind. (BTW, snow and ice storms count; the stuff melts when the weather warms up, and the meltwater has to go somewhere.)

Building on the slope? Uh, even my hillbilly relations from Way Southeastern OH and down in WV know better than that.

If I can figure this out with a year of Basic Geo under my belt, there should have been somebody at the CE office who could have told them, “don’t do that”.

If there wasn’t, or the real estate people and builders didn’t listen, and permits were granted… somebody’s a$$ needs to be burned.

clear ether

eon

eon on March 26, 2014 at 10:37 AM

“This was a completely unforeseen slide. This came out of nowhere.”

Just like the Obama administration, plead ignorance and all is forgiven…..

redguy on March 26, 2014 at 10:38 AM

bumsteaddithers on March 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Sad to hear of your loss…This is a great tragedy.

workingclass artist on March 26, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Ed, Yakima is not local, the local paper is the Everett Herald. Yakima is on the other side of the Cascade mountains, about 500 miles away.

Jeff Weimer on March 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Beat me to it.

WitchDoctor on March 26, 2014 at 10:51 AM

How could it have been “completely unforeseen”? A similar but smaller slide occurred eight years ago in nearly the same spot, blocking the river and threatening a flood, according to the Herald. No one stopped residential construction in the neighborhood, although the county did require the homes to be on platforms two feet above the base flood level calculated for the area. On Monday, county officials claimed to be completely unaware of the 1999 Corps of Engineers report that predicted this very event.

.
When all else fails, Ed, go back to the basics – MONEY.

One of the first things they teach civil engineers:

Water ALWAYS Wins.

A little further in they teach you:

Don’t build ON or BELOW a hillside. The hillside is going to move downhill sooner or later.

But there is always a developer who can mysteriously overrule those two lessons by getting MONEY into the hands of various elected officials.

Department of Emergency Management – maybe these folks need a Department of Emergency Prevention? They might do a better job on foreseeing a problem.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Questions are now being asked about whether the state government and/or local officials should have known the risks for the slide.

When did looking for somebody to blame for natural disasters become the first impulse, anyway?

It didn’t happen out of the blue

Actually, it did. There were no programs handed out beforehand.

Disasters happen and innocents die. Such has always been a sad reality of human existence and always will be. I think we humans need to get over the idea that life offers guarantees of protection from all manner of misfortune and tragedy.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 10:56 AM

eon on March 26, 2014 at 10:37 AM

.
Thank you for that researched post. It’s the best info I’ve seen on the matter, till now.

listens2glenn on March 26, 2014 at 11:07 AM

This is horrifying. I found this part “unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up” very telling. Hindsight is 20/20 and people want to live in beauty. The thought of people alive and waiting for help is too much for me. I pray for them and those who love them.

Cindy Munford on March 26, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Huge tragedy, but why can’t we accept that “shlt” happens?

Why do we always need to find someone to blame? Why can’t accidents, events, just happen?

Second guessing about a study a decade ago, yeah a mudslide years ago, now becomes a major deal…after the fact.

The problem with our society is that something, or someone is always at fault…like the “Sun Gods” or the Greek Gods, they caused all the problems.

In this case, not the Greek Gods, but engineers are the problems, inspectors are the problems.

The sad fact is, accidents happen, and we need to prevent them, take actions to prevent them, but they don’t always happen because someone is to blame.

right2bright on March 26, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Don’t build ON or BELOW a hillside. The hillside is going to move downhill sooner or later.
PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Whenever I see pics of expensive CA hillside homes on stilts overlooking the ocean, I’m thinking that takes a special kind of stupid.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Disasters happen and innocents die. Such has always been a sad reality of human existence and always will be. I think we humans need to get over the idea that life offers guarantees of protection from all manner of misfortune and tragedy.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Didn’t read your post…exactly.

We research to find out what not to do in the future, but not to blame some entity on a misfortune, tragedy/accident.

right2bright on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Thanks, eon.

juliesa on March 26, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Just another example of government indifference and incompetence which is then covered up by the big lie.

Viator on March 26, 2014 at 11:23 AM

You can look at Google Earth pictures of this hillside through the years, and it’s been slumping for years, like a slow motion collapse. While not every natural disaster death can be blamed on humans, I do think they need to investigate to see if this event should have been foreseen.

juliesa on March 26, 2014 at 11:26 AM

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

My dad had folks in West Virginia and when you would drive up to the front of the house and it would look like a normal street level ranch but there would be zero back yard, half of the house would be on huge stilts. I must say it gave this beach girl the willies.

Cindy Munford on March 26, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Didn’t read your post…exactly.

We research to find out what not to do in the future, but not to blame some entity on a misfortune, tragedy/accident.

right2bright on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Yeah, there is always a risk, no matter where a person lives. Hurricanes, tornadoes, sinkholes, earthquakes or just a plain ol’ lighting bolt when you’re out golfing on a clear day. Everyone could live in bomb shelters, wearing helmets, padding, masks and eating only government approved foods – but death would still come to all. And it wouldn’t be much fun living that way. With life comes risks.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:36 AM

Whenever I see pics of expensive CA hillside homes on stilts overlooking the ocean, I’m thinking that takes a special kind of stupid.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Or homes lining narrow, rustic canyons not easily accessible to emergency vehicles.

Location. Location. Location. Take that chance for the view, seclusion, etc.

Cross your fingers that disaster will miss your home in the next fire, flood, mudslide or earthquake or simply ignore the future probability of such for enjoying the present benefits of the environment now.

Stupid and willfully ignoring the laws of nature.

hawkeye54 on March 26, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Cindy Munford on March 26, 2014 at 11:31 AM

Ya wouldn’t catch me on stilts, much less my home! They’re okay for a weekend cabin in the woods-type thing where the ground is level, but most the time I like my feet on solid ground.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Oso is/was located in a very beautiful rural area. Little more than a wide spot in the road surrounded by Dairy Farms/Agriculture and Timber Mills.

I lived on 67th Ave in East Marysville, about 10 or 15 miles away as a kid. The lure of living in such an area is very powerful for certain kinds of people. It’s remote, yet accessible, quiet, secure and nothing much goes on there.

What you would call a niche, but lucrative housing market. At the end of the day, the reason that those houses got built there, is that someone got paid.

The reason that someone got paid, is because for some people, the lure of living in a tranquil, peaceful, quiet, rural, back to nature environment, was worth paying for.

Did those people know the risk they were taking by buying/building their homes where they did, the answer is probably yes and no. They probably knew that their was some risk, but not how high that risk was.

They probably believed that the risk factor was far lower than it actually was, and considered the risk worth the benefit of living in that environment.

As far as the county, they probably didn’t bother checking out any geological stability reports. That particular area is an OLD rural/agricultural area, nothing much ever happens out there is probably what they thought. Yea, they thought wrong, plus, there was no doubt money to be made, permit fee’s, taxes, quiet honestly, that is probably all she wrote on that matter.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Whenever I see pics of expensive CA hillside homes on stilts overlooking the ocean, I’m thinking that takes a special kind of stupid.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

.
Whenever I see one of those CA hillside homes has collapsed down the hillside … I’m just sorry the architect and building inspector weren’t standing underneath it when the inevitable happened.

;->

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 11:44 AM

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:39 AM

Now I worry about sink holes. In Virginia Beach a “good” Nor’easter would take out at least the roads and septic tanks on ocean side property but they were seldom a “surprise” and loss of life rare. I think my rule of thumb is if I can’t let the dog out the back door, I probably don’t want to live there.

Cindy Munford on March 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Whenever I see pics of expensive CA hillside homes on stilts overlooking the ocean, I’m thinking that takes a special kind of stupid.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Different situation, you would be surprised how much of California is just a few feet of dirt on top of solid rock.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Cross your fingers that disaster will miss your home in the next fire, flood, mudslide or earthquake or simply ignore the future probability of such for enjoying the present benefits of the environment now.

Stupid and willfully ignoring the laws of nature.

hawkeye54 on March 26, 2014 at 11:38 AM

People in Minnesota, North & South Dakota living by the Red River learned that in 1997. Fargo looked like it had been hit by an A-Bomb.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:47 AM

I think my rule of thumb is if I can’t let the dog out the back door, I probably don’t want to live there.
Cindy Munford on March 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Ha! That’s actually a pretty good measuring rod.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Daniel Miller, a geomorph­ologist, also documented the hill’s landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. He knows the hill’s history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. He has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up.

That’s why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones.

.
One of the other things they teach civil engineers:

The only engineers who can kill MORE people than you are chemical engineers (Bhopal) and nuclear engineers (Hiroshima).

This WAS an event that WAS going to happen – 100% risk over a period of time.

Given how high the death toll has the potential to end up, people need to go to JAIL for the deaths which occurred because greed took precedence over the good of the public.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

I don’t know much about landslides, but I have visited this one many times to hike on the slide debris and use the lake it created:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gros_Ventre_landslide

It’s one of the largest non-volcanic slides in modern times. The amount of material that moved so suddenly is amazing. No one was killed by the actual slide, but two years later the dam it formed gave way partially, and a tiny town downstream was hit by the flood.

juliesa on March 26, 2014 at 11:57 AM

Washington State liberal environmentalists should be convicted for murdering those people.

crash72 on March 26, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Different situation, you would be surprised how much of California is just a few feet of dirt on top of solid rock.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 11:46 AM

.
No offense meant, OW, but there are TWO mistakes in that statement:

A few feet of dirt weighs a LOT and is more than enough to take the house down the hill if it starts to move.

“Solid rock” is a misnomer. Even bedrock MOVES in an earthquake and when it moves it frequently breaks. “Solid rock” is frequently just very large segments of rock and based on what TYPE of rock it is can become a much higher risk from normal weathering over a relatively short period of time (10 – 20 years).

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:05 PM

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 11:46 AM

.
No offense meant, OW, but there are TWO mistakes in that statement:

A few feet of dirt weighs a LOT and is more than enough to take the house down the hill if it starts to move.

“Solid rock” is a misnomer. Even bedrock MOVES in an earthquake and when it moves it frequently breaks. “Solid rock” is frequently just very large segments of rock and based on what TYPE of rock it is can become a much higher risk from normal weathering over a relatively short period of time (10 – 20 years).

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Hey, this is California, remember? We don’t know anything at all about earthquakes or landslides. Sometimes even the best designed buildings come down. We are probably doing something right building those houses perched on stilts, considering the ratio of those that come down to those that don’t.

Now, you want to knock us for our political choices… Fair game I suppose.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

“… the local newspaper Yakima Herald …”

No.
Seattle is about 50 miles from Oso, Yakima about 150.

IcePilot on March 26, 2014 at 12:24 PM

This just in:

They just had a report regarding this disaster. The 2010 geological report had made this specific location a “critical problem area” for the county. There were plans being made to rezone and restrict this specific hill.

So …… enough of the people living there decided they didn’t want the county telling them what to do so ……… they formed their own county under state law to get around any remediation plans.

One of the “leaders” of the new county effort is among the missing.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Cross your fingers that disaster will miss your home in the next fire, flood, mudslide or earthquake
hawkeye54 on March 26, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Actually none of those are much of a concern in my environs (unless you include “house fire”, which is always a possibility in every home). I’d be more concerned about a terrorist attack or the Yellowstone Caldera blowing.

We can get some nasty blizzards, but those come with the territory and only morons go out in the middle of one (not counting the Emergency Personnel who need to be out in one as “morons”). Ya just hunker down until it’s passed and then it’s shovelin’ time.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Hey, this is California, remember? We don’t know anything at all about earthquakes or landslides. Sometimes even the best designed buildings come down. We are probably doing something right building those houses perched on stilts, considering the ratio of those that come down to those that don’t.

Now, you want to knock us for our political choices… Fair game I suppose.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM


You left out wildfires …

… and the fact that most of the state is naturally a desert.

Add in the potential for multiduo decadal drought (apparently the geologic records show there has been one that lasted 200 years over most of southern California) …

… and the recent recalculation that earthquakes of 9.0 or greater are much more likely than previously estimated (how much of Los Angeles gets swept away by a 40 foot high tsunami?)

… picking on your political choices is just low hanging fruit.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM

So, generally, the area is landslide prone. However, with respects to geo reports, has a geo ever said any site was safe no matter how innocuous? I think that is a Monday morning QB “gotchas”. So sad they have to refer to that.

bumsteaddithers on March 26, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Sorry for your personal losses, but I’ll take exception to your “generalization” shown above. Over 50 years as a geologist and I’ve written many reports, both internal corporate and public, that have said a certain thing was safe, and they are all still safe. I have also produced written opinions about things that were not considered safe: over half have since failed, the remainder are “pending”.

You can look at Google Earth pictures of this hillside through the years, and it’s been slumping for years, like a slow motion collapse. While not every natural disaster death can be blamed on humans, I do think they need to investigate to see if this event should have been foreseen.

juliesa on March 26, 2014 at 11:26 AM

This event was foreseen, and apparently fairly well and appropriately documented. The only thing left to do was put a “Hollywood” type sign on the top of the hill, where everyone could see it, that read “Failure Will Happen”.

Yoop on March 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM

We are probably doing something right building those houses perched on stilts, considering the ratio of those that come down to those that don’t.

Now, you want to knock us for our political choices… Fair game I suppose.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM


One other thought

Eventually, ALL those houses will come down. A few might make it to 100 years but time and Mother Nature are on my side.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Hey, this is California, remember? We don’t know anything at all about earthquakes or landslides. Sometimes even the best designed buildings come down. We are probably doing something right building those houses perched on stilts, considering the ratio of those that come down to those that don’t.

Now, you want to knock us for our political choices… Fair game I suppose.

oscarwilde on March 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

Japan also builds with earthquakes in mind. But, as we have seen not too long ago, sometimes things don’t go as well in reality as in theory. No matter how solidly built the structures may be, I wouldn’t want to be around when The Big One hits.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 12:42 PM

This event was foreseen, and apparently fairly well and appropriately documented. The only thing left to do was put a “Hollywood” type sign on the top of the hill, where everyone could see it, that read “Failure Will Happen”.

Yoop on March 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM

.
From the latest coverage, the head of the Department of Emergency Management is being taken to task for his “Unforeseen” comment.

It turns out there have been reports done in 5 out of the last 6 decades on what the locals referred to as “Slide Hill”.

PolAgnostic on March 26, 2014 at 12:43 PM

…I wouldn’t want to be around when The Big One hits.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Plate tectonics says it’s just a matter of “time”.

Yoop on March 26, 2014 at 12:45 PM

The rescue has been called off intermittently due to area conditions, it is still raining, and the ground is saturated. There is no choice between risking lives of the rescuers, and the effected. There area is exceptionally dangerous. We have sent many volunteers from our work-site because some of our coworkers live in Oso.

The rescue has been exceptionally well handled, especially when you consider the conditions. The main road was completely blocked, the Stilliguamish River is blocked causing the river to back up, the weather is windy and rainy. The T.V. pictures do not show the expanse of the destruction, and I doubt many people can understand the devastation of a mile wide mudslide.

I pray for all of the families involved, and mourn for all of those who have died. It is truly horrible.

Rode Werk on March 26, 2014 at 1:18 PM

When people say the government needs to do something about a particular situation, they need to remember stories like this. See 9/11, the government is only capable of reacting.

pgrossjr on March 26, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Plate tectonics says it’s just a matter of “time”.

Yoop on March 26, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Well, a CA quake wouldn’t shake me much here in the Upper Midwest. Like I sez, I would be concerned if the Yellowstone volcano pops, tho – that’s also a matter of time.

whatcat on March 26, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Might want to check and see if the Growth Management Act was involved in this.

Up on Fill Hill (King County, WA) we had a hillside that was clearly unstable. We complained for years about the zoning, asking the county to stop the continuing development on this hill. We pointed out that the hill simply couldn’t support the density it was zoned for.

The county claimed their hands were tied by the Growth Management Act, which had an explicit purpose of forcing higher density to combat Global Warming (because less sprawl means less commuting).

Sure enough one year the hill gave way, no one died, but it block the main arterial for Finn Hill for a week. The poor person at the bottom of the hill who had just moved in a couple months before was fined and ordered to pay for the disaster despite them not having contributed to it.

Sackett on March 26, 2014 at 2:37 PM

…..Its a ticking time Bomb:

I did a google, a few days ago:

(Is There a Fault-line running through it??)

Western Washington fault line much larger than once thought
Posted on June 17, 2010 at 2:00 PM
Updated Thursday, Jun 17 at 7:07 PM
************************************

New scientific data is proving that a major fault line under Snohomish County is much larger than once thought.

Snohomish County Emergency Management officials say the South Whidbey Fault is more extensive, and in the event of an earthquake,
the damages would be more significant than predicted.

“We’ve always known that the fault line was there,

but we didn’t know it was connected to so many smaller fault lines in the area,”

said John Pennington, Director of Snohomish County Emergency Management.

The fault line runs from south Whidbey Island, southeast to the Bothell area.

“There is a large populated area in between,” said Pennington. He also pointed out that the South Whidbey fault is so close to the
surface that even a smaller quake could cause substantial damage.

“Anything over 6.0 magnitude, and older structures could crumble,” he said.

The concerns stem from new data and technology available that can better estimate the fault size. Snohomish County invites residents to review and comment on the recently updated Snohomish County Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan (NHMP) beginning Friday, June 18.

The new plan must be approved before the county receives any federal dollars than can go towards better preparing residents for an earthquake.

For more information on how to prepare in case of an emergency: http://www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/Departments/Emergency_Management/Information/Factsheets/

http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/
================================

http://www.king5.com/news/local/Western-Washington-fault-line-much-larger-than-once-thought–96598499.html

canopfor on March 26, 2014 at 1:43 AM

canopfor on March 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM

The seriousness of the calls,..and the gravity of the situation,
accelerates as the calls come:

Snohomish County, Wash., mudslide
25m
Snohomish County releases series of 911 calls from deadly mudslide in Washington – @KING5
read more on king5.com
=======================

Breaking News Video
Oso 911 calls: ‘There are so many people yelling for help’

Audio/Video: (10:35)
*******************

http://www.king5.com/news/breaker1/video/Oso-landslide-911-calls-252301371.html

canopfor on March 26, 2014 at 1:21 AM

canopfor on March 26, 2014 at 3:22 PM

The personal aspect of this story is heartbreaking. Lives are forever shattered by the slide. During some of the interviews I’ve listened to is the repeated line about how the govt didn’t warn them of the possibility the slide could happen. This complacency about waiting for a govt to tell you to worry about a disaster coming your way keeps getting repeated by those who depend on a govt. People need to remember to take care of themselves if they want to survive and be prepared.

Kissmygrits on March 27, 2014 at 9:40 AM