Deadly Washington State Mudslide Leaves Families with Anguish and Unanswered Questions

Search and rescue crews continue to work near the towns of Oso and
Darrington a week after a mudslide left at least 24 people dead and numerous others missing.

The Darrington area, about 55 miles northeast of Seattle, experienced higher-than-normal rainfall, which may have triggered more than a square mile of earth to dislodge and cascade downhill. But other questions remain unanswered. The death toll has continued to rise as workers sift through the rubble that destroyed at least 30 homes.

‘Potential for a Catastrophic Failure’

The Seattle Times has uncovered a 1999 report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that warned of “the potential for a catastrophic failure” at the site of the landslide.

“We’ve known it would happen at some point. We just didn’t know when,” Daniel J. Miller, co-author of the report, told the Times.

If this catastrophe was predictable, why are we only hearing of this now, after so many lives have been lost?

A Complex Issue

Seattle lawyer Ron Perey, of the Perey Law Group, has been down this road representing victims of past mudslides. He says:

“The saturation and movement of soil is a very hyper-specific area of science: geomorphology and hydrology. We rely on our government scientists to report when the dangers exist so the public can make reasonable decisions to protect their personal safety and property.”

The topography of the area was carved out by glaciers and the Stillaguamish River. The recent tragedy is not the first mudslide in the area since the alarming 1999 report: A previous slide occurred in 2006.

This merits further investigation.

A Time for Mourning

The landslide has drawn the attention of the entire nation. President Barack Obama has asked Americans to send their thoughts and prayers.

For now, this seems like all we can do for the victims, families and brave search and rescue workers.


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