Slide survivor tells of ‘wave’ of mud hitting home

DARRINGTON — The roar of the hillside collapsing was so loud that Robin Youngblood thought an airplane had crashed. But when she looked out the window of her mobile home, all she saw was a wall of mud racing across her beloved river valley toward her home.

“All I could say was ‘Oh my God’ and then it hit us,” Youngblood told The Associated Press. “Like a wave hit our mobile home and pushed it up. It tore the roof off of the house. When we stopped moving we were full of mud everywhere. Two minutes was the whole thing.”

Youngblood is among the few survivors of the massive, deadly mudslide that destroyed a rural community northeast of Seattle last weekend. Five days after the destruction, Youngblood visited Darrington to see her cousin and follow up on the process of federal aid.

“It’s really hard to see all of this. It’s really hard to know that I can’t go home. Several times this week I’ve said ‘I need to go home now.’ Then I realize, there’s no home to go to,” she said Thursday.

In the early 1900s, Youngblood’s family helped establish the community of Darrington. They were Cherokee who had been forced to move to Oklahoma and Arkansas, but decided to move to Washington. Youngblood’s great grandmother is buried a few blocks from the Darrington town center, she said.

Two years ago, Youngblood was living in Hawaii, but her children asked her to move home. She found a mobile home on 6 acres; three of those were wetland by the river. The other three, she said, were above the historic flood line.

She had valley around her home with eagles, bear, fox, salmon and coyotes. Out of her home, she ran a church anchored on her Native American heritage.

All of that was destroyed in seconds on Saturday.

The wall of mud hit her home, engulfing her and a student of her church. Youngblood was able to swim to the surface and clung to the unattached roof before more water came in — a stroke of luck that probably helped save her life because she was not trapped. Her student, a Dutch national named Jetty Dooper, also surfaced.

“We cleaned everything from our noses and mouth so we could breathe,” Youngblood said.

While they were clinging to the roof, a couple of neighboring kids ran toward the mud, but Youngblood yelled at them not to step into it and call 911.

Covered in freezing mud, Youngblood and Dooper waited. While waiting for help, she saw a something of hers floating toward them, a painting called “Wolf Vision.”

About an hour later a helicopter arrived and crews extracted Youngblood and Dooper. Youngblood made sure the painting was also retrieved. It’s the only item she has from her home.

Days after the mud, Youngblood has developed a cough from the hypothermia. But otherwise, she escaped largely unscathed.

“I’m grateful to be alive. I have no idea how I came out without being crushed from limb to limb,” she said.

Dooper was deeply bruised but otherwise OK, Youngblood said

The Dutch national is on her way back to the Netherlands, according to the Seattle Consul P.P.M. Hageman.

Youngblood is hoping to see what remains of her home. She had family heirlooms in it, and is hoping some of those survived. But for now, her family is planning ahead. Her daughter is looking for another home, but it won’t be in the valley.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be able to go back to that valley for years and years,” she said.

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Most Read