Scientist warned of ‘catastrophic’ Wash. landslide in 1999
ARLINGTON, WASH. – A scientist working for the government had warned 15 years ago about the potential for a catastrophic landslide in the fishing village where the weekend collapse of a rain-soaked hillside killed at least 16 people and left scores missing.
As rescue workers slogged through the muck and rain in search of victims Tuesday, word of the 1999 report raised questions about why residents were allowed to build homes on the hill and whether officials had taken proper precautions.
“I knew it would fail catastrophically in a large-magnitude event,” said Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist who was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to do the study. “I was not surprised.”
Patricia Graesser, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps in Seattle, said it appears that the report was intended not as a risk assessment, but as a feasibility study for ecosystem restoration.
Asked whether the agency should have done anything with the information, she said, “We don’t have jurisdiction to do anything. We don’t do zoning. That’s a local responsibility.”
Snohomish County officials and authorities in the devastated village of Oso said that they were not aware of the study but that residents and town officials knew the risks of living in the area.