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Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

Witness recalls scene of mudslide rushing toward her

  • Mike Lincoln and other rescuers work to free Gary McPherson from his crushed house after the Oso mudslide.

    Amy Miles

    Mike Lincoln and other rescuers work to free Gary McPherson from his crushed house after the Oso mudslide.

  • Water laps at the driveway of the Lincolns' home after the devastating mudslide.

    Amy Miles

    Water laps at the driveway of the Lincolns' home after the devastating mudslide.

  • Amy Miles

    Amy Miles

It felt like any normal Saturday morning.
Amy Miles, a Darrington High School student, was at the house of her boyfriend's parents on the south side of Highway 530. She packed a lunch for her boyfriend, Quinten Lincoln, and said goodbye to him as he drove off to work.
She returned to the house to write a note to Quinten's parents, Mike and Laurianne Lincoln, who were sleeping in the other room.
Minutes later, as she walked out the front door to take the dog for a walk, she heard what sounded like boards breaking. She saw trees falling as a mudslide rushed toward the house.
"I literally thought it was the end of the world," Miles said Wednesday from her aunt's Mount Vernon home, where she has been staying since. "It looked like the trees were just sinking into the ground — that's how fast they were falling.
"I turned and looked and saw a bunch of water splash up and a bunch of mist. I saw some water going over (Highway) 530."
Miles watched as the mudslide crashed through the homes of the Lincolns' neighbors, Cory and Julie Kuntz and Gary and Linda McPherson. The slide stopped about 20 feet from the Lincolns' front door, enveloping the driveway in mud and debris.
"If I'd gone to check the mail that morning, I'd be gone," Miles said. "I would have been hit by the roof of that house, which was in the roadway."
After realizing that she was safe, Miles' first thought was for the safety of Quinten, who had left just a few minutes before the mudslide and had driven through what was now a devastated area on his way toward Arlington.
"I just remember shaking so badly I couldn't type in the (phone) number," Miles said.
Quinten answered and said that he was at a friend's house a mile the other side of the mudslide. He had missed being hit by slide by just a few minutes.
The next five hours was a blur. Seeing the Kuntz home in pieces near the back end of the Lincolns' property, Miles and Mike and Laurianne Lincoln rushed to see if they could help.
"I ran to the back of the house and saw their house just all over the place," Miles said of the Kuntz home.
Knowing that Quinten was good friends with the Kuntz family, Miles called Quinten and told him about the devastation. Quinten immediately called Cory and Julie and got them on their cellphone. They were on their way to watch their own son, Quinton, play a baseball game in Tacoma, so they weren't home and were safe.
They turned their attention to the other neighbors, the McPhersons. Their home also was demolished, and Mike Lincoln heard someone inside tapping on what sounded like wood. Miles and Mike Lincoln ran back to the Lincolns' house in search of an axe, which Miles found outside the home near a flooded area.
"The water was only maybe two inches deep, but the ground was so saturated my leg went all the way down to my knee," Miles said.
With the axe, Mike Lincoln helped firefighters and volunteers extricate Gary McPherson from the house.
Miles returned to the Lincolns' house and comforted her boyfriend's mother, Laurianne Lincoln.
"You just sit there and you look out and you think about how lucky you are and you think about everyone else," Miles said.
Later that night, Miles, a star basketball and volleyball player for the Loggers, returned to her home near Darrington with her mom and brother. They packed clothes and other items and left for Mount Vernon to stay with Miles' aunt.
Five days later, it's what she heard when the mudslide first started that sticks with Miles.
"The sound was," Miles said, taking a second to compose herself, "it was like if you were to take a thousand people and had them hold boards and break them over and over again. That's what it sounded like."
Aaron Swaney covers high school sports for The Herald. He can be reached at aswaney@heraldnet.com.

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