Residents of the small town devastated by a massive mudslide that left at least 14 dead knew that there was a “high risk” of this kind of disaster in the area, according to a Washington state official.
“This entire year we have pushed message after message that there’s a high risk of landslides,” John Pennington, director of Snohomish County Emergency Management said. “The dangers and the risks are known.”
Scientist warned of Wash. mudslide danger 15 years ago
ARLINGTON, Wash. – A scientist working for the government had warned 15 years ago about the potential for a catastrophic landslide in the fishing village where the collapse of a rain-soaked hillside over the weekend killed at least 14 people and left scores missing.
As rescue workers slogged through the muck and rain in search of victims today, word of the 1999 report raised questions about why residents were allowed to build homes on the hill and whether officials had taken proper precautions.
“I knew it would fail catastrophically in a large magnitude event,” though not when it would happen, said Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist who was hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the study. “I was not surprised.”
Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps in Seattle, said it appears that the report was intended not as a risk assessment, but as a feasibility study for ecosystem restoration.
Asked whether the agency should have done anything with the information, she said: “We don’t have jurisdiction to do anything. We don’t do zoning. That’s a local responsibility.”
Snohomish County officials and authorities in the devastated village of Oso said that they were not aware of the study but that residents and town officials knew the risks of living in the area.
In fact, the area has long been known as the “Hazel Landslide” because of landslides over the past half-century. The last severe one before Saturday’s disaster was in 2006.
Over and over again we see people behaving with willful ignorance of the deadly consequences of their actions. People build houses on floodplains and stop vaccinating their kids and pretend climate change isn’t happening and levies won’t fail and kids won’t find grandpa’s gun, and on, and on, and on.
It’s getting really hard for me to feel sorry for humanity. We’re just so fucking stupid sometimes.