03/26/2014 by syrbal-labrys
I have friends in Snohomish County. I was calling them in alarm this past weekend because on Saturday morning there was a catastrophic landslide that rushed across the Stillaguamish River. As the week went on, with despairing reports of would-be rescuers stymied by shifting quicksands in the huge slide area, we read how there had been a nearly catastrophic slide in 2006, and repeated warnings since 1999 about the risks of this slope.
That is why there was no post for a while, as my mind swirled like the muddied waters of that mud/debris diverted river. Because the loudest voice in my head was screaming “Why were people allowed to build/buy houses there?” Why indeed? I would suggest that because money was to be made, and damn the
torpedos risk of death-dealing mudslides. I have to say, if government is to protect the interests of the ordinary citizen and not real estate development companies and banks making interest off home loans; they surely should have taken a look upslope first. Yes, someone will shrill at me for (1) being insensitive in a time of grief, and (2) asking for a nanny state to tell people where they can live.
Well, damn it, you can’t have it both ways — if education is so sparse that the people BUYING homes in this area couldn’t look upslope and go, “Hey, no fucking WAY I am buying here,” then some damned governmental body ought to be on the lookout. And once it DID slide in 2006, narrowly missing taking out homes? WTF was the reason for no strong overlook THEN? Saying
shit massive mudslides “just happen” seems pretty chickenshit to me.
We looked for a home here in Washington State in 1987. I was in a tiny kitchenette motel with three children in January. The realtor took me out every day while my military husband settled in with “First Group” on Ft. Lewis. Looking at a sweet new home on some very green level ground, spotting a tree line about 50 yards off, I asked, “Is that a river?” Why, yes, she believed it was…so when I said, “Is this a floodplain?” she stammered and I never even walked inside that sweet little house. Starting up a hill in her car, I asked her — “Is this house up on that bluff we saw?” and her “Yes,” meant we turned around right then. This is a seismically active zone, that pretty snowy mountain right there is a volcano, after all. In quake swarms preceding possible eruptions, those soft-piled soil bluffs left there by glaciers tend to LIQUIFY. She asked me if a pretty little place called “Orting” interested me. I consulted a small map and said no. Orting is in a “lahar zone” — this means, if MY mountain (Rainier/Tahoma) ever erupts like Mt. St. Helens did in 1980, that a vast river of moving mud will take Orting all all around it clear to Commencement Bay on Puget Sound. Not my idea of how to achieve beach-front property. “You have to live SOMEwhere.” she said.
Yes, we needed to be within a half hour of Ft. Lewis. And so we are…tucked OUT of the lahar zone, not near any water feature larger than a marsh with a “creek” going through it, and tucked behind several tall rocky ridges that should block/divert lava or mud flows from my mountain. I’m on the top of a low flat rocky glacial moraine created hill that drains well and does NOT slide anywhere. My trees are not bowed with “creep” that would warn me of a slipping-slide minded hill. We’ve weathered snowstorms, ice storms, a couple quakes, torrential rainstorms and some very dry hot summers of late. So far, so good.
I wish I could say the same for the poor people of Oso — digging out their neighbors so they can bury them again. The heart breaks to think someone, anyone in local government could have said to a builder or ten “Is that really a sound idea…near that hill, on that branch of the river?” Nothing left for it now, one supposes, but funerals and lawsuits.