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Clearing road blocked by Washington mudslide could take months

Gov. Jay Inslee orders flags at Washington State buildings to fly at half-staff for a week in memory of mudslide victims.
By Frances Burns   |   April 15, 2014 at 4:33 PM
| License Photo
OLYMPIA, Wash., April 15 (UPI) -- Clearing the road blocked by the Oso mudslide could take as long as three months, the Washington Department of Transportation said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner reported that the confirmed death toll is now 37.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the flags at all state buildings to be lowered from noon Tuesday until noon on Tuesday, April 22, in memory of those killed in the slide. In his announcement, Inslee encouraged other government entities and private citizens to join the observance.

The slide March 22 dumped a square mile of mud and debris on part of the village of Oso, blocking both State Route 530 and the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

"We hope to have one lane of SR 530 with alternating traffic local traffic by this fall," the department said. "However, the roadway underneath the slide could be significantly damaged. It’s too soon to tell if the road will be drivable once the debris has been cleared."

The blockage leaves the small town of Darrington almost cut off. SR 530 is Darrington's major artery with the nearest town Arlington 27 miles to the west on the other side of the slide.

The medical examiner's office said the most recent body recovered has not yet been identified. But the number of people unaccounted for has dropped steeply and officials now expect the final toll to be between 40 and 50.

[Gov. Jay Inslee's Office]
[Washington Department of Transportation]
[Snohomish County Medical Examiner]

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