3 more Oso mudslide victims identified; rain hampers search
EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - Authorities have identified three more bodies pulled from the debris of the mudslide that swept through the Washington town of Oso last month, leaving four names left on the list of the missing.
All 39 victims recovered have been identified, the Snohomish County medical examiner's office said Thursday.
The latest are Wyatt M. Ruthven, 4, of Arlington, Sandra K. Miller, 64, of Everett, and Ronald P. Dequilettes, 52, of Arlington. All died of multiple blunt force injuries.
The March 22 slide buried dozens of homes in the community 55 miles northeast of Seattle. Steady rain Thursday is complicating the search and recovery effort, and officials worry about rising water from the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.
Nearly an inch of rain is expected on top of about 2 inches that have fallen since Tuesday night, said Gary Schneider, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.
The pool behind the mudslide has risen about a foot and it's expected to rise 2 more feet before cresting Thursday night, he said.
That could come close to cresting a berm built by the Corps of Engineers so water could be pumped out of the search area. The corps added tons of rock Wednesday to add about a foot to the height of the 3,000-foot-long berm.
The rain adds to the agonizing mess for hundreds of workers searching the debris for bodies and starting to clear a mile-long stretch of Highway 530 covered up to 25 feet deep.
The state Transportation Department has been telling residents in meetings this week it could be fall before the highway is cleared, repaired and reopened. In the meantime, officials may allow residents with "passports" to use a service road that has been restricted to emergency crews.
Officials also are preparing for President Barack Obama's visit to the site on Tuesday. He plans to survey the damage and meet with victims and emergency responders.