ARES Providing Limited Support for Washington Mudslide Response
[Updated 2014-03-24 1820 UTC] ARRL Northwestern Division Director Jim Pace, K7CEX, reports Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers are responding “on a limited basis” in the wake of a weekend mudslide in Snohomish County, Washington. The disaster claimed eight lives. Pace now reports that another 108 people are unaccounted for, although he said, some of those reports could be duplicates, as the area is divided by the slide. Authorities continue trying to reconcile more than one list of missing people. More than two dozen buildings were damaged or destroyed.
“This is still a rescue operation!” Pace stressed. “So there is a 'fog' on information at times.” He said ARRL Western Washington Section Manager Monte Simpson, K2MLS, is attempting to coordinate with the ARES District Emergency Coordinator in Snohomish County.
“This is not a good situation,” Pace added. “Our ground out here is so saturated, it is a miracle that we haven’t had more landslides. Pace said the landslide is about a mile wide. ARES response is limited, he said, because conventional communication systems are still working. He anticipates that ARES activity could increase as the operation moves into the recovery phase.
The Washington State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) activated at Phase III level on March 22 to support the response to the landslide near Oso. The American Red Cross has opened two shelters.
Washington Lt Gov Brad Owen has declared a state of emergency in Snohomish County. The landslide completely covered State Route 530, which has been closed. It also blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Oso, raising the threat of localized flooding and the potential for downstream flooding after the blockage lets go.
“The Mount Index area of Snohomish County is experiencing a large, slow-moving landslide that is disrupting power, local roads, and access for emergency response,” Owen said in his declaration. “Local evacuations have been ordered by Snohomish County for specific areas the landslide has impacted and which are threatened by potential flooding.”