"Undescribable" is how Pierce County first responder sums up mudslide scene

Tacoma News TribuneMarch 26, 2014 

Work is slow, hard and intense for emergency crews sifting through the muck and debris at the site of the Snohomish County mudslide.

Tim Pierce, assistant chief of field operations for Central Pierce Fire & Rescue, is part of a 70-member team of first responders from throughout the region -- including about 28 from Pierce County -- that arrived Tuesday morning at the site near the town of Oso.

“Undescribeable” is the word Pierce used to characterize the devastation.

“I’ve never seen a lahar, but I suspect this is what a lahar would look like," he said, referring to the cataclysmic mudslides that flow down from Mount Rainier every several hundred years.

He said emergency crews from Pierce County are working closely with local first responders who have been on the scene since the March 22 slide occurred. They are working in areas targeted by trained dogs, indicating where bodies may be buried.

“We recovered remains yesterday, but not yet this morning,” he said before noon Wednesday.

Pierce said crews are working dawn to dusk in the field, then spending time late into the evening planning the next day’s work. He said workers were able to bring in heavy equipment to help with the digging.

Wednesday’s weather was gray and dry, he said, but Tuesday brought another downpour, along with thunder and lightning Tuesday night. He said work continued in the rain, but that the weather hampered progress.

“It’s very muddy and slippery -- with dangerous footing,” he said.


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