On March 22, 2014, a massive landslide inundated a small community along State Route 530, near Oso, Washington, approximately 55 miles northeast of Seattle. A total of 43 people were killed, and 49 homes and other structures were destroyed. SWCA mobilized nearly 30 monitors from 9 offices over a two-month period to help with archaeological construction monitoring during emergency debris removal on the state highway.
As a subconsultant to Environmental Science Associates, SWCA provided emergency monitoring support services that involved constant monitoring of debris removal, including searching for human remains and personal items. The team was deployed in small groups in separate locations to ensure there were always enough people monitoring the removal of mud and debris from the roadway.
Safety was of the utmost importance as operations were being conducted around-the-clock in dangerous conditions due to wet and loose substrate and potential contamination. The project team received commendation on their consistent and rigorous safety practices and professionalism throughout the project. At times, our staff worked directly with survivors of the landslide, elevating our sense of urgency while also prioritizing safety and being mindful of others during such an emotional situation.
The emergency response teams involved many federal, tribal, state, and local agencies, including Snohomish County, the Washington State Emergency Management Division, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the Washington State Department of Transportation, NOAA’s National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, and the USGS.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons