Search continues as list of missing grows in Snohomish County

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OSO, Wash. — The number of people possibly missing climbed to 108 Monday morning, two days after a wall of mud buried a rural neighborhood, blocked a highway and dammed the North Fork Stillaguamish River.

The official death toll remained at eight, and a search Sunday night turned up no additional survivors, officials told a press conference in Arlington.

Cadaver and rescue dogs were being brought in to continue the search of a deep, mile-wide debris field that now covers homes and Highway 530.

It is a grim situation, said Travis Hots, chief of Rural Arlington Fire Department.

“We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday,” he said. Even so, searchers continue to hold out hope of rescue.

Although the potential number of missing has now reached triple digits, that is likely to change as more information becomes available, said John Pennington, who heads Snohomish County’s Department of Emergency Management.

“It is a soft 108,” he said, adding that he expects that number to “decline dramatically” as more information becomes available.

About 15 million cubic yards of debris continue to block the Stilly, said Steve Thompson, who heads the county’s public works department.

“It is massive. It is the biggest thing I’ve seen in 30 years,” he said.

Although the river has begun to carve a new channel through the debris field, water continues to rise upstream. So far, seven homes have flooded.

The slide-scarred hillside north of the river broke free about 10:45 a.m. Saturday, burying Steelhead Drive and E. Steelhead Drive neighborhoods. Seven people have been found dead at the scene, and eight others were taken to hospitals, where one later died.

Among those who lost their lives was longtime Darrington School Board member Linda McPherson, who retired from the board in 2007.

Emergency officials on Monday said the slide has affected at least 112 properties. On those, 49 had some form of structure, including homes.

The county assessor’s office lists 22 homes and vacation cabins along Steelhead Drive and E. Steelhead Drive, the neighborhood hardest hit by the slide. At least 15 of those addresses appear to be for homes that are occupied year-round by their owners.

Another road, 312th Street NE, was also listed in the eastern lobe of the slide zone, according to a county emergency response map. At least three homes were in that area.

The area hit by the Oso mudslide is known to be unstable. In 2006, the same hillside broke away and dammed the river just south of the Steelhead Drive neighborhood. Nobody was hurt that time.

A number has been set up — 425-388-5088 — for people who are trying to find loved ones, who want to report someone missing, or ask about temporary shelter.

Emergency officials urged people to use the Red Cross list to find survivors. They said multiple lists from unverified sources unfair to families who are searching and grieving.

Darrington schools were closed Monday and bus routes were modified in the nearby Arlington district. Both districts serve the Oso area.

Highway 530 is closed at the Oso Fire Department on the west side of the slide, and at Little French Creek Road (milepost 42) on the east side of the slide. It will remain closed indefinitely; officials are working on a possible bypass.

Gov. Jay Inslee declared the Oso slide a disaster area. He plans to pursue a federal disaster declaration soon.

Sunday brought a somber search. There were no obvious signs of life. More than 100 rescuers were on the ground or in the air.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle continued to care for five people who were seriously injured in the slide. On Monday morning, a 6-month-old boy remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit; the same was true for an man, 81. Two other men, 37 and 58, were listed in serious condition and a woman, 25, was reported in satisfactory condition.

One of the injured people flown Saturday to Harborview Medical Center is a Boeing worker. Timothy G. Ward, 58, was scheduled for surgery Monday and was listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit.

Co-workers said his wife, Brandy was among the missing. Their home was swept away in the mudslide.

Rob Thoms works with Ward among a small group in aircraft systems training for the Boeing 787. Ward’s wife often sent baked goods, including cookies and pound cake, with him to share with co-workers.

“She was the team mom, that’s for sure,” Thoms said.

Ward served in the Army where he flew helicopters and is the lead for their Boeing work group, Thoms said.

Ward’s co-workers were eager for him to recover.

“We are all extremely hopeful for any good news that comes out of this,” Thoms said.

They’re also looking for the family’s five dogs — all German Shorthair Pointers. Two of the dogs are named Sampson and Delilah. They were microchipped.

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