Stephanie Fritts, Chair of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) Advisory Committee, is Director of the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency. Following is information she has shared on the situation in Washington.
March 2014 has been an exceptionally rain-filled month in Washington State. As of this writing (March 26, 2014) annual rainfall has exceeded normal by close to five inches. The morning of Saturday, March 22, 2014 was an atypical sunny morning, but one of the largest disaster events related to rainfall occurred that morning in Oso, Washington. An extremely large and unexpected landslide befell Snohomish County at approximately 10:45 a.m. Authorities were first alerted by a 911 call reporting severe flooding. As it ended up this was not flooding, but a mud/landslide that had wiped out the town of Oso and portions of the town of Darrington. The landslide was not truly land, but mud, as the slide also traversed and blocked the Stillaguamish River. Responders reported sinking while attempting rescues, even with ladders, sheets of plywood and makeshift supports, attempting to dig through mud estimated to be up to 20′ deep. The mud was often described as “quick sand” and is dangerous if not impossible to traverse.
The rescue effort has continued since Saturday morning (and is ongoing as of this writing), with 24 identified fatalities and up to 176 individuals listed as missing. This event is larger in terms of personal impact than the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s eruption. 57 people died in the eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s. Those persons were a disparate group of researchers, photographers, and more, without personal community connections. The impact of the slide on Snohomish County is distinctly different in that the numbers of fatalities is expected to be much larger and the impact is close and personal. This is a community that knows each other well, and neighbors cannot walk down the street without seeing a person in grief.
Presbyterians can follow the rescue and recovery effort on Twitter by following the hashtag #530slide or the hashtag #Oso. The Snohomish County Emergency Management Agency website is full of current information as well as links to video that provide a true scope of the event. In addition, a search of Facebook will turn up an active Snohomish County Landslide Victims Memorial Page
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been in touch with the Presbytery of North Puget Sound to offer One Great Hour of Sharing funds and other assistance. At their request, PDA has sent two members of the PDA National Response Team (NRT) to help in the response. In many situations NRT members meet with local Presbyterian pastors, when appropriate tour impacted areas, and discuss opportunities for collaboration with the broader faith community.
How you can Help
Give: Support the One Great Hour of Sharing offering or share your financial blessings by designating gifts to DR000015 – USA Disasters and Emergencies. Individuals may give through their local Presbyterian congregation, online, or by mailing a check to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. You can also text PDA to 20222 to donate $10.
Pray: The Presbytery of North Puget Sound has specifically asked for your prayers. Please pray that through the response of the faith community, the people and communities impacted those offering assistance will be reminded of the faithful hope found in Christ.