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County Officials Say Stricken Neighborhood Made Aware Of Landslide Risk

Dave Norman
Washington Dept. of Natural Resources
A view of the landslide near Oso, Wash.

The hillside that unleashed a torrent of mud and destruction near Oso in Snohomish County, Wash., on Saturday has a long history of prior slides.

This one was the largest in recent memory and the death toll is expected to rise.

Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington contends nearby homeowners “were very aware of the slide potential.” He says his office had nothing to suggest a specific warning of imminent danger needed to go out on Saturday.

“We’ve done everything we could to protect them," says Pennington. "We’ve mitigated the landslide from 2006. There’s been warnings and advance notifications of the high risk for landslides. We’ve done everything that we could. My heart goes out to all of these individuals. We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

One valley resident who came by the incident command post to inquire about missing friends says she doesn’t blame the county. This student who didn’t want to give her name was raised in nearby Darrington.

She agrees the landslide risk was known, but says no one was prepared for the magnitude of what broke loose Saturday.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.