Tag Archives: Oso

#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



2 Reasons NOT to Trust the News Media


We see those words every day as they flash across television screens. The counterpart to these words are the bolded  headlines that scream from the front pages of countless newspapers. And, on the radio somber voices announce the latest disasters.

We count on those words every day to keep us informed. But what happens when those words are WRONG, INACCURATE, INCORRECT?

The Highway 530 Slide is an example of the news media chasing glory rather than truth, or even accuracy.  When the news media first arrived on the scene that fateful March 22, a beautiful Saturday morning, Highway 530 was blocked and traffic stopped close to the Oso Fire Hall. Because that point was where they were stopped, the news media dubbed the landslide-turned-into-mud-slurry-tidal-wave the “Oso Mudslide”.

No one could blame the media for the MISNOMER that day. It was a day of chaos, fear, hope, and devastation as survivors were pulled from certain death and the count of bodies rose. No one could’ve blamed them for the next couple of days, but after that…..

It has been nine weeks now since that fateful day in March. I have personally spoken to several news media people and written to others asking that they cease calling the Highway 530 Slide the “Oso Mudslide”.

Daniel Catchpole of the Everett Herald answered my email on April 28:

Daniel Catchpole <dcatchpole@soundpublishing.com>

Apr 28

to me
Thank you for your email. I’ve shared it with the newsroom. You make excellent points, some of which have been raised already in the newsroom.
The name is meant solely as a geographic reference. Oso was the closest thing that shows up on a map. The name isn’t meant to connote who suffered the most. I agree that it is frustrating that the name doesn’t quite match up. And I have referenced Hazel in several of my stories.
Perhaps we should have called it the Hazel Landslide, but when that decision was made, it was in the early hours of the disaster. There was sparse information. But once we started using one name, switching to another name would have created much confusion among readers and officials. And in the first couple days after the slide, confusion was something that people in Snohomish County didn’t need more.
(NOTE: Actually, Hazel does show up on some maps.)

It is no longer the first days of the disaster. The officials have been calling the slide by its proper name, The Highway 530 Slide, for several weeks now. No one appears “confused” by the change from “Oso Slide” to “Highway 530 Slide”. No one except the NEWS MEDIA. They still seem unable to grasp the difference.

A section of Highway 530 was wiped out along with a small community–Hazel and the Steelhead Loop.

The nearest part of Oso to the slide was the east end of Oso Loop Road,  situated on the WEST side of the slide and four miles away from the closest edge of the mud.

We had a recent memorial at the site of the slide before the highway opened to traffic. I talked with one of the people from one of the major news media in the Seattle area and asked him to use the proper name for the Highway 530 Slide and to at least mention Hazel.

He looked at me kind of blankly and said, “Hazel? Where’s Hazel?”

I told him, “You’re standing next to it. And the people who lived here, and died here, deserve to be recognized, to be named, to be honored.”

He said, as he crabbed away from me, “It’s not my call. I just do what the higher ups tell me to do. They said call it Oso Slide. I don’t want to argue this with you….” then he slipped away like a wet eel.

So….I am a voice crying in the darkness created by the very people who are supposed to shine a light for the rest of us, the news media.

They made a mistake and misnamed the slide. That’s okay. They’re human; it was chaotic during those first days (I know; I was here). We can all understand that.

What we who live here on the EAST side of the slide don’t understand is this:

Why will the news media not admit the misnomer?  Or at least, stop using it and change over to what the officials are calling the disaster: The Highway 530 Slide?

Why won’t they, at least, honor the people who died by naming their community?

There are the two reasons to NOT trust the news media:

1. They won’t admit a mistake

2. Even presented with information, they won’t accept they might have been wrong and they won’t CHANGE.

Maybe they shouldn’t be called the “news media”? Perhaps,that is a misnomer. Maybe some of them should be called the “myth media”?

COME WITH ME on a journey into the past and meet the community of Hazel, Washington. I am currently researching the area of the Highway 530 Slide and will be posting about the history and the people who lived there. DON’T MISS THE UPDATES! CLICK and FOLLOW.




Nestled amid the foothills and the mountains of the North Cascades, the small town of Darrington–population 1,405– appears untouched by the Highway 530 Mudslide that obliterated the tiny community of Hazel, Washington at 10:57 AM on Saturday, March 22nd.

Appearances are deceiving. The townspeople of Darrington struggle to meet the day to day challenges of an essentially landlocked area. With their main route of travel, Highway 530, blocked for the foreseeable future, these ordinary people struggle with the extraordinary issues of finding ways to commute the extra two to four additional hours–EACH WAY–to jobs and doctor’s appointments.

And they feel forgotten. What news caster is calling out, “Darrington strong! Darrington proud! The Darrington Do-ers!”?

Nearly everything on the news yells, “Oso strong! Oso Mudslide!”  Yet, the town of Oso was affected only by the loss of loved ones to the mud. Oso is located WEST of the Mudslide, and are not blocked from any of their normal activities.  What they suffer is the emotional loss, just the same as many other towns in Washington: Darrington, Arlington, Bellingham, Puyallup, and even in Montana. Darrington is located EAST of the Mudslide.

It was the tiny community of Hazel that the mud swallowed on that fateful morning.

While the  townspeople of Darrington grieve for lost loved ones, they battle the misconception of the public that money is pouring into Darrington to help them in this time of need. The loudly touted relief of ‘gas cards for commuters’ is not nearly the relief many believe it to be. The sad reality is that a commuting family will receive an initial $100 gas card and it will be reloaded only once a week at $60 from that point on. It does not matter if more than one family member must commute. That is all the assistance they will receive.

In a desperate effort to find more gas money, many families turn to the Food Bank. Last Saturday the Food Bank served 73 NEW families. The Food Bank’s resources, always stretched, are stretched even further. Many of the food deliveries wound up at the HUB in Arlington, a 85 mile trip one way. My wife and I took the journey yesterday to retrieve supplies for the Food Bank in our pick up truck.

Red Cross Counseling is for the immediate families of the victims, mother, father, siblings. Those in our town, stricken by grief for friends and neighbors do not have access to the Red Cross grief assistance.

The retired Veteran who shuttles three friends to appointments at the VA Hospital drives an additional 85 miles one way to get to the point where he normally starts from on that already long and gas-costly journey. Since March 22, this older gentleman has received a total of $150 to help with the extra gas costs. He makes the journey between one and three times per WEEK.

Beautiful thing happened yesterday, though: a little boy was visiting Darrington, having lunch at the Burger Barn, and he and his mother heard the old-timer talking. After they ate, the little boy walked up and handed the older gentleman a roll of bills. The older gentleman handed it back, but the mother said, “You are denying him the right to help.” The older man accepted the donation, and shook the young boy’s hand. After they left I heard him tell his friend, “Now I don’t have to worry where to get gas money for that appointment tomorrow.”

Burger Barn

Many small business owners are wondering if they will survive the coming summer, usually their busy season. If the road doesn’t open, there will be no tourists; there will be no way to host the music festivals, the art shows that bring in hundreds of people from all over.

While the media continues to use the misnomer, ‘Oso Mudslide’, don’t let it fool you. It was the Highway 530 Mudslide.

Words have power. Please, honor the tiny community of Hazel that once sat between the river and Highway 530 and was swallowed by the tidal way of mud, and the small town of Darrington that continues to feel the devastation of being isolated. Please, call the mudslide by its true name: The Highway 530 Slide.







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.