County hotline is reliable source of info on missing, officials say

ARLINGTON — The only reliable way for Oso-area families to check on missing loved ones is through the county mudslide hotline, 425-388-5088, officials said at a press conference Monday.

Other lists of victims and survivors cropping up online are not verified and are creating confusion for families who are grieving and waiting for news, said John Pennington, the Snohomish County director of emergency management.

County officials on Monday were creating a database of names to work with, including the 108 people who may be missing in connection with the slide.

All those who live along the North Fork Stillaguamish River are urged to register at the Red Cross-run website safeandwell.org so loved ones can check on them there.

People with missing loved ones also can send info to DEMcallcenter@snoco.org. They should provide as much information as possible, including pictures and descriptions of identifying features, such as tattoos.

Many of those with missing loved ones have flocked to an emergency operations center in downtown Arlington, where officials planned at least three more press conferences Monday.

Arlington is the first town along Highway 530 west of the road blocks. The city, with a population of about 18,000, has become a gathering place for friends, family and passersby waiting for news.

Since the slide, people have been parking along Highway 9 in town, trying to get a glimpse of the sunken Stilly downstream from the disaster. Haller Park on the river was expected to reopen late Monday morning.

On Sunday, a trailer was set up to take donations for slide victims outside the Arlington Food Pavilion, which sits on Highway 530 on the north end of town. People shopping for groceries on Sunday said they were exhausted and hoping to get back to their homes. The area was asked to evacuate again on Sunday evening.

The grocery store manager on Monday morning could be heard on her cellphone discussing a special order for water bottles, baby food and diapers.

Donations bought from the store so far included bags and bags of pet food as well, she said. Signs detailing needed donations were pasted to the checkout counters as well.

The Pazzaz Hair Design salon on N. Olympic Avenue downtown had a homemade banner up in its window Monday, saying money from each haircut would be given to victims.

Others gathered at the Blue Bird Cafe, an old-school American diner on Olympic popular with locals and often a place to catch up with talk. Many in town shied away from the police station, where roughly two dozen reporters and TV cameras were posted from media outlets throughout the country. Some expected the slide story to remain top national news for several weeks.

Officials initially had asked for a large number of donations including new clothing and bedding.

People inundated the emergency shelter with donations, overwhelming resources and complicating the efforts to help those displaced, according to the American Red Cross in Snohomish County.

More than 30 people have stayed in Red Cross shelters overnight in Arlington and Darrington.

At this point, what’s most needed is monetary donations, according to the Red Cross.

For more information, visit www.redcross.org/donate.

People also can text “RedCross” to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Advice from the Red Cross

  • Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety because no one knows for sure what will happen next. Remember that it’s OK to feel nervous.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get enough rest.
  • Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration and anxiety.
  • This is a time where people should take care of themselves and their families. For example, reach out to others to offer and receive support.
  • Parents should let children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety.
  • Free counseling is available around-the-clock at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.

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