EWU student reveals hometown’s shock from mudslide devastation

EWU student reveals hometowns shock from mudslide devastation

By Wilson Criscione, News Writer

“It just didn’t seem real,” said Ashley Garcia, an EWU student.

Garcia is from Arlington, Wash., which is just 12 miles west of Oso, Wash., where a massive mudslide devastated the small town and took the lives of at least 36 people as of April 11, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

She was back in her hometown hanging out with her friends when she heard the news.

Those who grew up in Oso go to school in Arlington, since Oso does not have its own school district. The towns are close to each other in more ways than mere proximity, and now Oso is relying on its neighbor more than ever as it recovers from tragedy.

Garcia said she immediately texted her friend in Oso who she went to high school with. She was relieved to find out her friend’s family was on the opposite side of town from the mudslide.

But Garcia knows plenty of people personally affected by the disaster.

She told the story of one person from Darrington, Wash., who was driving through Oso right as the mudslide occurred. The man stopped to help an older man find his wife, who was lost in the landslide. When they found her, all they found were severed body parts.

“Most of the people who have told stories are just about people like that. Not really anyone has found survivors,” Garcia said.

She said Oso and Arlington are small enough that most people know each other.

“Pretty much everyone was texting everyone to try to find out if everyone was okay and what was going on,” Garcia said. “As soon as it happened, like, everyone in Arlington knew about it and people were opening up their homes, and the middle school in Arlington opened up for people to come and stay.”

The lives of hundreds of people were in question when the mudslide first occurred. After four days, 90 people were still missing. As of April 11, 36 people have been confirmed dead and seven people missing, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. The majority of those still missing are from Arlington.

The American Red Cross reported that over 100 overnight stays, nights people stay at a shelter, have been provided between Arlington and Darrington.

Kyle Bustad, a public informations officer, said that many displaced families have been spread throughout the area. Towns surrounding Oso, like Arlington, also opened up their houses to first responders.

He said people cleaning out their closet and donating, while appreciated, are not needed at this point because those affected by the disaster do not have homes to put items in. The best way to help, he said, is to either donate money or see if there are any volunteer opportunities through places like the Red Cross.

For survivors, Bustad said that it is most important for them to have someone to talk to one-on-one.

While growing up in Arlington, Garcia had not considered that something like this could happen. Even though the town is in mudslide territory, she said people thought the mudslide would occur on a different part of the hill.

“No one knew what to think,” Garcia said. “No one was expecting something like that to happen.”