Oso community marks 9-year anniversary of deadly landslide

Mar 22, 2023, 10:37 AM | Updated: 2:27 pm

oso landslide...

Rescuers look for survivors in the Oso landslide that killed 43 people. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

On a quiet Saturday morning, the sun was peeking through the clouds, offering a pleasant early spring day. The north fork of the Stillaguamish River was receding in the wake of three days of dry weather following a wet winter.

Then just past 10:30 that morning, a large segment of a hillside gave way, surging across the valley just east of Oso in less than 60 seconds, sweeping away everything in its path, including the Steelhead neighborhood.

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March 22 marks a solemn day in Washington’s history. It was nine years ago when the Oso/SR-530 landslide occurred, taking 43 lives in this tragic event.

It remains unclear what triggered the massive slide. Was it the river nibbling at the foot of the hillside? Was it the weight of all the winter rainfall soaked into the hillside? Were other factors involved? Geologically going back centuries, similar landslides had occurred in this valley.

In this case, the landslide temporarily blocked the river before the water found a gap late in the day, easing fears of flash flooding downstream. Yet, the backed-up water did produce flooding of homes just upstream of the slide area.

Spring showers and even a few thunderstorms hampered crews at work with the initial response and recovery efforts during the next six weeks. Yet, response crews and their support teams did a monumental job with the recovery of those lost.

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A roadside memorial has been in place near the landslide site for about eight years, marked by 43 trees and a mailbox sculpture that honors the Steelhead neighborhood. But an Oso Landslide Memorial is taking shape thanks to a nearly $6 million public and private project. Donations continue to be accepted at the Oso Landslide Memorial website.

The memorial plans to have exhibits honoring the victims, survivors, and those who responded to the catastrophic event, serving to educate visitors about the disaster. The memorial is slated to be completed prior to the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy next year. But until then, many remember and honor those who lost their lives on this date nine years ago.

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Oso community marks 9-year anniversary of deadly landslide