Officials update death count; 30 still missing

ARLINGTON — As search crews comb through the Oso landslide debris field looking for victims, they are also bagging personal items to be returned to survivors.

Snohomish County is still working out the process for reconnecting owners with their possessions, a county spokeswoman said.

On Sunday, searchers found four more victims from the March 22 slide, but their bodies haven’t been retrieved yet, Jason Biermann, program manager for the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management, told a news conference Sunday.

The official death toll is now 21, with 15 people formally identified by medical examiners, he said.

The list of missing and possible slide victims remains steady at 30, Biermann said.

Based on reports by officials and news media talking to family members, at least 31 people died in the slide.

An additional body-recovery team is coming from Colorado to help with processing remains, said Major General Bret Daugherty, commander of the Washington National Guard.

New dog teams are also arriving to help searchers find victims.

“We’re doing all we can,” Daugherty said. “It’s absolutely difficult work. This will give some of our guys a breather.”

Heavy rains in recent days have hampered search efforts, creating several ponds in the debris field, Biermann said.

Crews unsuccessfully tried to drain the pools, which were too large, he said. “They’re waiting for them to drain naturally.”

The sun broke through intermittent clouds Sunday. Better weather is expected in the next few days, which will help searchers.

This month was the second-wettest March on record in Arlington and Darrington, Biermann said.

In Arlington this month, 7.7 inches of rain has been recorded. A typical March is 4.57 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.

In Darrington, 18.8 inches of rain has fallen. A typical March sees 7.26 inches.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Daugherty inspected the slide from the air on Sunday.

Inslee said rescue and recovery efforts will continue as people want to “find that miracle,” and if not a miracle, simply any information related to the whereabouts of loved ones.

During a news conference at the airport in Arlington, he said planning is just beginning for the long-term housing needs of those affected by the slide and for re-establishing Highway 530 between Darrington and Oso.

The plans for replacing the road will involve extensive public comment and will be sensitive to families which lost loved ones in the slide, Inslee said.

In the meantime, work crews have opened an access road connecting Oso to Darrington again. However, it is only open to traffic involved with disaster relief, Biermann said. That much traffic alone “is maxing out the road’s capacity.”

The Associated Press and Scott North contributed. Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read