Massive Mudslide Kills at Least 3, About 18 Missing

March 23, 2014

A rush of mud, trees and rocks swept over a small Washington community Saturday morning, killing at least three and leaving about 18 others missing. Even with so many still unaccounted for, rescue workers said that the situation was still too volatile to send individuals out onto mudflow they said was "like quicksand" to search for individuals.

Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots told the Associated Press that "we suspect that people are out there, but it's far too dangerous to get responders out there on that mudflow."

So first responders have turned to helicopters to search for any signs of life, all while they try to figure out a way to get rescuers safely onto the mudflow.

Several people were critically injured and as many as 30 houses were destroyed by the slide, which was 60 feet deep in places. The flood of debris also prompted evacuations after it clogged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, leading water to rise rapidly behind the mass of earth.

One eyewitness told the Daily Herald that he was driving on the roadway and had to quickly brake to avoid the mudslide.

"I just saw the darkness coming across the road. Everything was gone in three seconds," Paulo Falcao told the newspaper.

According to Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for, western Washington experienced an abundance of wet weather in March. "Through March 21, Seattle was only 0.69 inches away from tying their wettest March on record, set in 1950," said Erdman.

Authorities believe that slide was caused by ground water saturation from that recent spell of wet weather. John Pennington from the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management said the area has a history of unstable land. He said a slide also happened there in 2006.

Pennington said the most recent incident happened without warning.

"This slide came out of nowhere," he said.

Authorities urged members of communities downstream from the clogged river to evacuated amidst flooding concerns, but said that they could return to their homes during daylight hours Sunday.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Sunday afternoon, but cataclysmic flooding wasn't expected.

Below are photos gathered from social media:

MORE: Washington Mudslide

The first trooper on the scene tries to help. (Photo: Trooper Mark Francis, Washington State Patrol District 7 PIO for Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom & Island counties.)

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Ad Blocker Enabled

Featured Blogs

First African Tropical Wave of the Year to Get Designated an 'Invest': 96L

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 27, 2016

One of the strongest tropical waves of the 2016 African monsoon season moved off the coast of Africa on Wednesday morning, and has the potential to develop into a tropical depression in the coming days as it tracks westwards at 15 - 20 mph into the middle Atlantic. NHC designated this disturbance Invest 96L on Wednesday morning--the first "Invest" of the year for an African tropical wave.

Hottest Reliably Measured Air Temperatures on Earth

By Christopher C. Burt
July 22, 2016

As Jeff Masters mentioned in his recent blog, a temperature of 54.0°C (129.2°F) was observed at Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21st. According to the Kuwait Meteorological Department this was the hottest temperature ever measured in the country (a reading of 54.4°C/129.9°F observed at the same site on July 16, 2010 has been disallowed as a result of a faulty sensor). The 54.0°C reading also is a new record for Asia and ties a similar reading at Death Valley (on June 30, 2013) as the hottest reliably measured temperature on Earth. The key word here is ‘reliably’. Many hotter temperatures have been reported from around the world in years past. However, all of these have credibility issues. In that vein I am going to revisit a blog I first posted on WU in October 2010 listing all the various claims to temperature readings at or above 54°C (129.2°F). In the years since I made that post I’ve learned more about some of these claims and have thus updated my entries and ‘validity’ scores as a result.

An extraordinary meteorological event; was one of its results a 1000-year flood?

By Stu Ostro
October 5, 2015

The confluence of meteorological ingredients the first weekend in October 2015 resulted in an extraordinary weather event with severe impacts. Was one of them a 1000-year flood?

Why the Arrest of a Science-Loving 14-year-old Matters

By Shaun Tanner
September 16, 2015

By now, many of you have heard or read about the arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old high school student from Irving, Texas. Ahmed was arrested because school officials called the police after he showed one of his teachers his homemade clock. Mistaken for a bomb, Ahmed was taken into custody, interrogated, shamed, suspended (still on suspension today, Wednesday), and reprimanded. All of this after it has been found that the "device" he brought to school was indeed, a homemade clock.