Oso Mudslide Response

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia’s disaster coordinator, Dave Baylor, is providing technical support to congregations whose members and neighbors were impacted by the mudslide in Oso, Washington, on March 22.

April 3, 2014

The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia’s disaster coordinator, Dave Baylor, is providing technical support to congregations whose members and neighbors were impacted by the mudslide in Oso, Washington, on March 22.  Baylor is a member of Episcopal Relief & Development’s Partners in Response team, a group of Episcopalian disaster experts who accompany churches and dioceses throughout the lifecycle of a disaster response.

Congregations are assessing the effects of this disaster, as the situation continues to unfold. “The debris from the slide created a dam in the river, causing flooding upstream and risk for flash-flooding downstream if the debris were to suddenly dislodge,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program.  “Also, those in the slide area and those experiencing flooding are not the only people affected. These are very tight-knit communities where the reverberations of loss will be felt by everyone.”

Current reports indicate that the mudslide killed at least 29 people, and 20 are still unaccounted for.  The impact area covers approximately 300 acres, with portions of this area covered in up to 80 feet of mud.  Search and rescue operations have been hampered by wet weather that makes the ground unstable and dangerous for first responders.

On April 3, the Obama administration granted a major-disaster declaration for the Oso mudslide, which allows individuals to receive federal assistance for their disaster recovery.  This is in addition to the previous emergency declaration from March 24 that enabled Snohomish County to receive federal reimbursement for rescue and cleanup work. 

For more information on federal disaster declarations, please download “How Federal Disasters are Declared” from Episcopal Relief & Development’s Resource Library.

Following a string of recent disasters along the West Coast (the Oso mudslide and a pair of earthquakes in California), Mears urges congregations and individuals to take these events as reminders of the importance of disaster preparedness.  “It is important to be aware of the levels of risk around where we live, work and worship,” she said. “I know that sometimes these disasters can feel overwhelming but any steps that individuals and churches take to prepare can help to mitigate the risks.”

Please continue to pray for all those impacted by this disaster, for the friends and families of those whose lives were lost.  Please also pray for the disaster responders who are searching for those who are missing and caring for those who are displaced.

Prayer for Preparedness and Response 

O God, our times are in your hand.  In the midst of uncertainty lead us by your never-failing grace as we seek to be agents of healing and hope.  Walk with us through difficult times; watch over us in danger; and give to us a spirit of love and compassion for those who suffer and mourn.  And finally remind us that you have promised never to leave us so that even in the valley of the shadow of death your love may be felt, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

– The Rev. Lyndon Harris, from the Episcopal Diocese of New York disaster preparedness plan

March 28, 2014

As of Friday, March 28, the offical death toll has risen to 17, but the number is expected to rise as nine other bodies have been discovered just in the past few days. On the other hand, the number of people reported missing has dropped to 90. Officials state that they may never be able to recover some bodies buried deep beneath the debris. Please continue to pray for the victims, their friends and family, and the first responders.    

March 26, 2014

A large mudslide engulfed homes and caused significant damage on Saturday, March 22, in Oso, Washington – approximately 55 miles northeast of Seattle.  So far 16 deaths have been confirmed and an estimated 176 people are reported missing, though search and rescue efforts have been hampered by dangerous conditions.  Authorities expect the number of missing people to decline as reports are reconciled and individuals are accounted for, though the number of confirmed deaths is likely to increase.

Episcopal Relief & Development has reached out to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia via Diocesan Disaster Coordinator Dave Baylor, and is currently offering technical assistance as the situation develops and the diocese prepares to respond.

The mudslide covers a one-square-mile area of rural Snohomish County, including a one-mile stretch of State Route 530.  Approximately 49 homes were destroyed.

The Diocese of Olympia issued the following prayer, written for the Oso mudslide by The Rev. Canon Lance Ousley:

Prayer for Oso, Washington

O merciful Father, comfort all who are in distress in the wake of the mudslides affecting those along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River. Give courage to those who search for family, friends and neighbors, so they will not be lost in danger or despair. Show your compassion to those who have lost loved ones, that they may feel your presence and live in hope of the resurrection. Strengthen those who have lost homes and possessions but have their lives, that they may embrace the precious gift of one another. Receive into your arms your children whose lives have been swept away, that they rest in your everlasting peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Please pray for all those impacted by the mudslide in Oso, for their family and friends, and for the first responders who are searching for members of their community.

To enable Episcopal Relief & Development to respond to disasters such as the Oso mudslide, please make a donation to the US Disaster Response Fund.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of The Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with worldwide Church and ecumenical partners to help rebuild after disasters and to empower local communities to find lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.