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Obama will visit Washington community of deadly mudslide on Earth Day

Volunteers search for victims
Volunteers search for victims

The White House announced on Tuesday that President Barack Obama will visit the rural area of Oso/Darrington where an entire residential community was swamped by a mile-wide mudslide tsunami estimated to be traveling at 60 mph on the morning of March 22.

The official death toll stands at 35, but the official missing list has shrunk from the initial number of 176 to 11, with persons unaccounted for ranging in age from 91 to 4-years-old.

The National Guard is still in the area working along with numerous local volunteers and the community has vowed not to stop searching until every last victim is recovered.

The challenge of moving mountains of gooey, oozing mud impaled with massive piles of trees, shattered homes and crumpled vehicles has been exceptionally exhausting and difficult—often making the most effective method the use of bare hands to comb through debris.

Obama was very responsive to the emergency situation from the beginning, according to Gov. Jay Inslee.

Inslee praised the president’s decision to visit what is now called the SR 530 slide site on April 22. It will give Obama the chance to witness the incredible and inspiring community spirit that has grown from the tragic events, according to the governor.

“From the earliest days following the slide, the president has closely monitored events in the area and shown his concerns for the victims and their families. He and his team have been important partners in the response effort, and I believe this visit will strengthen those ties as we face the tough work ahead,” said Inslee in his press release.

Also weighing in with a joint statement was Sen. Patty Murray (D) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D):

“The President’s visit is another important step in demonstrating the federal government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the families, first responders, volunteers and businesses, as they recover from this disaster. We appreciate the decision to make major disaster resources available and by the IRS to grant tax relief – and we’ll continue to work for the federal government to provide every resource possible for these communities.”

Serious questions were raised about why residential homes were allowed to be built in a slide-prone area that had numerous documented warnings on record about the 20,000 year old glacial remnants in the area composed of sand and rocky material.

In addition, the region received twice the normal rainfall for March, which experts said turned the gravelly soil into a slick, lubricant-type substance that likely contributed to the slide. They predict more mudslides are likely to occur in the area as climate change increasingly alters annual snow melts and rainfall.

President Obama’s visit will be on April 22, which also happens to be Earth Day.


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