First 911 caller just missed being mudslide victim

Another day of rain showers on Sunday greeted searchers continuing their slow, resolute dig through mud and the battered debris of what once was a neighborhood in Oso, Wash.

A day earlier, the effort drew a rare taste of good news: The number of missing people was officially trimmed to 30. For days after the angry wave of mud and debris roared through the quiet valley the number had been 90; immediately after the slide the number had been estimated at more than 170.

Weather forecasts also took a turn for the better. Dry, partly sunny skies were predicted for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The confirmed death toll rose by one this weekend, to 18 — although nine additional bodies awaited identification from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's office.

The grind of the sad search was wearing on those involved. Cathy Hagen, who manages a community center, told The Herald of Everett, Wash., that she only recently had her first real break since the slide hit.

She did laundry and lay down for a couple of hours. And she finally cried.

"When I woke up, that's when" the tears came, she said. She thought of the people caught in a roaring wall of mud debris. And she thought of the people spared by a few feet from the flow.

Angela Durant was one of those barely spared. She told King5 News she was delayed heading out her door to work that day. So instead of being a victim of the horrifying mudslide that devastated a quiet, rural neighborhood, Durant was the first person to alert emergency officials.

"I was late anyway, but I pulled up to the slide, and couldn't believe what I was seeing," Durant said.

Durant snapped photos on the east side of the slide, where mud and debris over Highway 530 had forced her to stop. She was the first to call 911:

911: 911, what is your emergency?

Durant: Hi I'm in Snohomish County, I'm on 530, and there's a creek and [inaudible] has washed out 530. There's a roof of a house on 530.

Durant, like so many other residents of tiny Darrington, had a job on the Arlington side of the slide. She's now looking for work closer to her home.

"I got a text message from a lady that said she needed a caregiver, and she's up in Concrete, so I have to remember to call her," Durant said.

In the meantime, the single mother of two told King5 she is volunteering and doing whatever she can to help.

Some of her friends are among the missing, but she said she stays strong thanks to the small acts of kindness she and others experience every day. One woman was unrelenting in her efforts to ease Durant's pain.

"She drug me over to her purse, pulled out all the money in her wallet, and gave it to me," she said.

Contributing: Marco della Cava in San Francisco; KING5 TV in Seattle


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment