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Why was there no warning?

This aerial photo taken Monday shows the massive mudslide that has left dozens missing. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The landslide story has entered the “Why was there no warning?” stage.

It’s inconceivable that with all the environmental regulation that a landslide that leaves a cliff almost as high as the Space Needle and races through a neighborhood could go undetected.

And then – to find that that geologists and state regulators knew for years that the small town of Oso faced a landslide hazard and yet people were allowed to live there?

It’s very tempting to want to blame somebody. The Seattle Times found evidence that in 2004 logging company clear cut the trees in what was called an “Area of Resource Sensitivity” that became part of the landslide.

But even if a warning had gone out, would people really expect a 550-foot hill to suddenly liquefy and wipe half the town off the map?

And that’s the problem with warnings.

There are so many of them, you have to choose.

The warning that a hurricane will hit within 24 hours – that you can act on. But the warning that a landslide might happen maybe this year, maybe in ten years, what do you do?

We drive every day on aging bridges and highways, the West Coast is under a constant earthquake threat, and even if it wasn’t, heck, just getting into your car is one of the most dangerous things you can do.

Flying in a commercial airline is far safer.

Except when it’s not.

The truth is, we ignore warnings every day, because if we didn’t, we would never leave home. And as the Oso disaster has taught us, even that can be fatal.

But it’s also reminded us how many people there are, who when things fall apart, are ready to help strangers as if they were family.

I think most of us are like that.

And ultimately, those relationships are the only real security any of us has.

Read more:
Oso mudslide death toll expected to rise at morning news briefing
How to help get supplies to volunteers in Oso
Seismic readings show Oso had 2 mudslides

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