Tag Archives: mudslide

#Highway530: In Memoriam

March 22, 2014 10:37 A.M.


Sorrow seemed to swallow us whole.
light in darkness

We came together–to search for an elusive miracle. We found that miracle in each other, and in the children who shouldered a burden that no child should ever have to lift. They came–from the young Cub Scouts who raised money to the children who helped serve food to the workers to the teenagers who stocked shelves.


In a community grieving, we found the first hint that

We came to accept that

Eventually, we realized


Four lessons grew from the soil of that tragedy:




Though life holds disappointments, broken dreams,and sorrow

This blog post is dedicated to the 43 people that were lost when the Highway 530 Mudslide took out the small community of Steel Head Drive and the surrounding area once known as Hazel, Washington.

Many of these image quotes can be found in Biker Granny’s Motorcycle Philosophy

For photos taken during the search and rescue efforts after the slide:

FEB. 26, 2016
Now, there will be no mudslide trial before mid-to-late September.King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff changed the schedule in a Feb. 18 ruling that came after lawyers for Snohomish County, the state of Washington, and a timber company all said more time is necessary.The delay was opposed by lawyers representing the families of the 43 people who were killed and dozens of others who were injured in March 2014 when a wall of mud and trees raced across the Stillaguamish River valley.“It cannot be underscored more deeply at this stage that Plaintiffs deserve their day in court,” the lawyers wrote. “The trauma of survivors and surviving family members endures while this case is prolonged and remains unresolved.”


4 Ways Journaling Heals

light in darkness

With the first anniversary of the Highway 530 Mudslide looming ever closer, emotions are intense.

Words are powerful and can help us deal with emotions. This is why keeping a journal can be a healing process. By writing down the feelings we are experiencing, we can begin to deal with them rather than allowing them to eat away at us on the inside.

This can be especially true of grief. In your journal:

  1. Write a story about the person you lost
  2. Describe a happy memory with that person
  3. Write a conversation you wish you could have with that person. Try to include what you think they would tell you
  4. Describe your feelings
  5. List two ways you can honor the memory of your loved one

No matter how dark

Another way journaling can help us heal is to reduce negative self-talk, increase positive self-talk and help us recognize achievements.

  1. Write down the negative self-talk. (ie: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, and so on)
  2. Now write down five positive things about yourself ( ie: I’m a good person, I help others, I do my job well, Yesterday I phoned my parents because they like hearing from me, I like my hair (or whatever physical attribute you think is positive) and so on.
  3. Write down two ways you will use to improve yourself. Make these very specific and have a deadline for implementing or achieving. Do not use such things as I will lose ten pounds this month. Instead list it like this: I will make three healthy dinners this week. I will not eat bread for five days. I will read one book every month.
  4. On a clean page, at the end of the deadline, write down what you achieved, why you didn’t achieve the entire goal and how you intend to approach it now. BE SURE to INCLUDE ANY progress toward your goal, such as: I fixed two healthy dinners this week. I failed to schedule in enough time to fix the third dinner. This week I will write up my menu for three healthy dinners, go shopping for the ingredients at least the day before the dinner, and I will put the dinners on my daily schedule.

Memories capture moments in our hearts. By briefly recalling a memory, we can help heal ourselves.  When you journal, you can capture your impression of the moment. The way your heart lifted when you watched the sunset; the way the brownie your sister made melted on your tongue; the sweet chocolate taste that flooded your mouth; or the warmth you felt when your spouse embraced you. Life can be rough at times and being able to return to a journal, leaf through it and recall these moments in poignant detail has the ability to pull our souls up from the darkest times, if only for a moment. Just remember:

imagequote sunsets prepare for new day

Journaling helps in the healing process.

  1. We can capture a moment in time; how we saw and felt at that moment
  2. We can release negative emotions in a healthy manner and brainstorm better ways to handle situations
  3. We can increase positive emotions on a daily basis or whenever we need to
  4. We can accept our grief, validate our feeling of grief, and begin the process of healing.

One last word: I am NOT a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, medical doctor or other professional helper. This article is NOT medical advice or even professional advice. I am an author and have found ways to use writing to deal with emotion.

If you are feeling angry, depressed, unable to motivate, suicidal, or any strong negative emotion that lingers, PLEASE contact a professional. Depression is a common illness. It appears in many disguises such as a shortness of temper, a feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, a feeling that life isn’t worth it, not having an appetite, wanting to sleep a lot. It comes to all of us, just like the flu, at various times in our lives. It is a normal feeling, just like when a cold attacks you. However if it won’t go away, just like if that cold or flu lingers, you need professional help to rid yourself of the illness. DO NOT hesitate.

One of my favorite actors was Robyn Williams. But, Robyn Williams was unable to seek help to get through a particularly rough spot in his life, and a bright light left our world with his suicide. Do not remove your bright light. Believe me, you DESERVE help, even if you don’t think so right now.

Are you depressed?

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.

  • you can’t sleep or you sleep too much
  • you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
  • you feel hopeless and helpless
  • you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • you have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating
  • you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
  • you’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior
  • you have thoughts that life is not worth living (seek help immediately if this is the case)

To read more about depression:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-suicide-and-depression-are-not-selfish




During the disastrous Darrington-Oso Mudslide disaster relief professionals learned important lessons from the Darrington volunteers.  Greg Sieloft was one such official. Follow the link and read how one small town’s response to the biggest disaster to hit the state of Washington, changed a man.


Explanation of photo: The chopped hillside to the right of the photo is the 900 foot hillside from which the slide occurred. The hillside broke like some giant cleaver had severed part of it and created that sheered face.

The water in the foreground is the Stillaguamish River and as you can see, it is blocked and backed up from the slide across it.

In the background and to the left in the photo is a squiggly gray line that leads back into the slide–that is Highway 530, the major route into and out of Darrington. We are still not sure how much of the one and a half mile of highway still exists beneath the mud.

With the blockage of Highway 530, Darrington faces severe economic hardships. The Hampton Mill that employs upwards of three hundred workers struggles to survive the increased costs for bringing in raw material and sending out their finished products. Increased fuel costs drive local families to despair as the long roundabout route that must now be traversed to go to work and to take children to school, breaks strained budgets. Tourist revenue, always an important part of Darrington’s economy with everything from the famous Bluegrass Festival to smaller festivals and musicians and artists, has been completely halted. Without Highway 530 open, tourists will not be stopping in this small town on their way along the scenic Cascade Loop and on to Eastern Washington. Where last summer thousands of happy tourists drove through, stopped, ate, rested, and bought from Darrington artists and merchants this summer promises to be one silence and isolation.  Highway 530 is not expected to be open even to local traffic for upwards of three months.

Can this small town survive? Only time will tell.

Photo courtesy of WSP.




The small town of Darrington, Washington struggles with the impact of the Oso Mudslide.

The mudslide that occurred on March 22 crossed the major artery, Highway 530, that connected the small town of Darrington with “down below”, as the natives call it—Arlington and all points from there. The tidal wave of mud and debris swept from the north side of the Stillaguamish River, scooped up the river then slammed into the south side of the narrow valley. It rushed up through a small valley between two hills then swept back north, carrying everything in its path to total destruction. That mudslide continues to play havoc with the small community of Darrington.

Highway 530 is currently buried under thirty feet of mud and debris and completely closed. What that means for the small town of Darrington is isolation and potential economic ruin, especially with summer looming close. The Bluegrass Festival, the largest of several festivals hosted on the Darrington Bluegrass Grounds, normally brings tourists and dollars to the economically challenged town. With Highway 530 blocked the festivals may face an impossible obstacle. Such festivals are important to this small community’s financial health.

The small businesses in our town, as in most small towns, have a very slender margin of profit. With the increased cost of transportation of goods, that margin of profit may become non-existent. The Hampton mill that employs three hundred of our Darrington community members—a large employer for our area–faces greatly inflated costs for transportation of goods which negatively impacts the company.

For other citizens of the Darrington area, what this highway closure means on a daily basis is that a short thirty minute trip to Arlington’s Haggen’s or Arlington’s Safeway stores has become a trip of over an hour and a half to a Safeway or Haggen’s in Burlington to the north and west of our town. The one hour round trip to the grocery store is a minimum three hour round trip on a dark, windy road.

In addition to the pain and grief of lost loved ones, the Darrington-Oso Mudslide means that Mom and/or Dad must now be away from home an ADDITIONAL four to six hours due to the added commuting distance and the nature of the scenic route which they must traverse twice every day. The increased cost of fuel thins already-stretched budgets and adds to the tremendous stress being experienced.

So when you send prayers for Oso…please, don’t forget Darrington. Call us by name both in your prayers and in your donations. Don’t forget us. We’re the survivors on the EAST side of the Darrington-Oso Mudslide.

Darrington Proud. Darrington Strong. Darrington Doers! We Git ‘Er Done!



Several hours after learning about Boomer, it is now understood that Boomer DID NOT survive the landslide, but rather walked two to three miles from his current home to the devastated area. Why?  Why would a dog walk that far to some awful place? Boomer’s former owner lived, and died, at that site. Boomer’s former owner, the brother of Boomer’s current owner, lived in a home wiped out by the mudslide. So, last night Boomer returned to the area where he had once been loved; an area that claimed the life of his first human.

No, the miracle we thought had happened, didn’t happen. A different miracle, a different testament of love happened. A dog crossed over two miles of extremely rough, dangerous terrain to the area where he once lived.

Dogs don’t forget; dogs grieve, and like the rest of us here in Darrington, maybe Boomer simply felt called to pay his respects to his former owner; felt called to “do something” in the face of such tragedy.


Last night, stumbling through the alien landscape of the #Oso mudslide devastation a horribly dehydrated and seriously injured dog was found. The dog who is slightly larger and a bit heavier-bodied than a German Shepherd was named Lucky because the animal rescue workers believed he had survived the worse disaster in Washington State history–a #disaster rivaling the explosion of Mount Saint Helens.  He was transported to the Darrington Rodeo/Bluegrass Grounds to our Animal Rescue Site to rest and be assessed overnight.


This morning, two Darrington Volunteers, Hiliary Schultz and Carolyn Yost transported Lucky to the Arlington Animal Clinic after pain killers had been administered to make the rough trip bearable for the seriously injured dog. The temporary, disaster route is a potholed, rough graveled, one-lane roadway. It bounced their vehicle as the tires crunched the gravel up and down the mountainside behind and adjacent to the swamps and mud of the devastated area where excavators diligently dug and crews watched for the uncovering of human remains. They delivered Boomer to Arlington Animal Clinic.

For a few hours, we believed Boomer had survived a disaster that had claimed the lives of our friends, family and neighbors. For a few hours we rejoiced. A cheer rang through the firehouse as we crowded around the brand new laptop that had just been donated to our disaster relief efforts yesterday by Microsoft. As the story about Boomer came on screen, a cheer rang off the walls of that cavernous building. Volunteers and fire department personnel threw arms around each other laughing and cheering.

When Trudy LaDouceur, District Secretary of Darrington Fire District #24 said, “This is so great. I am so sick of death,” she spoke for all of us.

Amidst sorrow and loss; pain and grief, for a few hours we believed that a miracle occurred last night: Boomer walked out of the deadly Oso Mudslide, and brought hope and healing to the hearts of Darrington’s people.

Tonight, we know that didn’t happen. A little bit of our hope slid away, a slippery dark eel sliding into the muddy swamps of that alien landscape that swallowed the lives of those we loved.


Here is the updated report on Boomer, the dog who “felt called” to traverse the deadly landscape where once a person he loved had lived. We here in Darrington understand that feeling; it is the “call” that takes our volunteers to that debris field, day after day.