ARLINGTON, WA - Floodwaters at the site of the Oso mudslide are receding, allowing crews to expand their search and yielding more human remains in areas that previously couldn't be reached.
It is a grim step forward in the search for human remains, but an important one.
More than 10 days after a large section of a rain-soaked hill crashed down on a neighborhood in the small community of Oso, teams with cadaver dogs are still sifting through debris and soil to determine exactly how many people died in the March 22 mudslide.
The mudslide partially dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool. Heavy rain last week added to the flooding. But early this week, the weather was dry and sunny - at least for a few days - allowing more crews to switch from water pumping to searching.
The National Weather Service forecasts rain to return Thursday and Friday with a chance of showers through the weekend. Any rain complicates the job of workers in the muck and increases the risk of flooding.
Tuesday, it was sunny and dry, a stark contrast to the first few days of the recovery operations when a significant percentage of rescue crew members had to focus on de-flooding the area. There were 270 tactical personnel and volunteers present.
The search is painstaking. In expanding their area, crews are using a grid system. But despite the progress, there are parts of the debris field that have not been examined because they are not yet stable.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the mudslide caused about $10 million in damage to homes destroyed in the slide area and their contents. He estimates further costs of $32.1 million for search and recovery efforts, and to remove all the debris. But he says the costs could go higher.
Inslee has now announced emergency public transportation grant funds will help respond to the needs of certain people affected by the landslide in Oso - people whose age, disability or income had already limited their transportation options.