Washington State Mudslide Tragedy

The 2014 mudslide in the town of Oso was one of the worst in U.S. History


washington mudslide

Devastation Caused by Oso Mudslide
Photo Credit: Washington State Patrol


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A mudslide in Oso, Washington, killed 43 people on March 22, 2014. Immediately after the mudslide, officials rushed to compile a list of people missing. Initially, the list was as high as 176 people, but it was reduced after several on it were found outside of Oso, a small town 59 miles north of Seattle when the mudslide hit. Search and rescue efforts began immediately after the mudslide occurred.

Three days later, National Guard troops arrived to help as the search continued for the people who had been unaccounted for since the mudslide. Rescue teams searched through mud several stories deep. The mud had a thickness comparable to freshly poured concrete. Meanwhile, state officials confirmed that a 1.1 magnitude earthquake had occurred right behind the mudslide area on March 10, 2014. The earthquake, along with heavy rains, was believed to be a reason for the mudslide, one of the worst in U.S. history.

A week after the mudslide, almost two dozen people still remained unaccounted for as the recovery effort continued. Severe weather such as heavy rains in the mudslide area made the rescue effort difficult. There had been no signs of life in the area since the day of the disaster.

In early April 2014, the water from recent heavy rains began receding and rescue workers extended their search. However, authorities were concerned that a spring snowmelt from the nearby Cascade Mountains could flood the search zone by the end of April. The US Army Corps of Engineers explored options for building a channel to alleviate the expected flooding.

President Obama declared the mudslide a major disaster. Estimated financial loss was $10 million. On April 22, 2014, Obama visited the mudslide area then met privately with survivors, families of the victims, and first responders.

—Jennie Wood

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