The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

March 31, 2014

Mudslide death toll rises, search dogs rest

(Continued)

DARRINGTON, Wash. —

In at least one place, the water level got so high that it covered areas that have already been searched, said Tim Pierce, leader of Washington Task Force 1, a search-and-rescue team.

“At this point, there’s no point in searching (that area) again until the water drops back down,” he said.

Rescuers should get some relief soon. Conditions were improving Sunday, and mainly dry weather is forecast Monday through Wednesday in western Washington.

The size of the debris field is also smaller than initially thought, officials said Sunday. After review and analysis, geologists have determined it is about 300 acres — just under half the size of an earlier projection of 1 square mile.

Away from the whirring chain saws and roaring bulldozers, many residents of nearby Darrington sought comfort in church services.

“I can only compare it to a hot, hearty meal after a very cold day,” said Slava Botamanenko, who works at the hospital in Arlington. He said he spent two nights there to be sure he was available for work after the mudslide blocked the road.

All week, a steady stream of people has stopped in to pray at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God on the edge of town, said Lee Hagen, the senior pastor.

“At a time like this, everybody knows they’ve got to have God’s help,” he said.

Country singer Susie McEntire, sister of Reba, performed for the congregation Sunday, crooning: “You’ll get through this and you’ll break new ground.”

At the St. John Mary Vianney Catholic church a few blocks away, Father Tim Sauer said: “Bless our communities, bless our people, bless our valley.”

The Rev. Owen Couch, a chaplain for the fire district in Darrington, said he’s worried about the first responders.

“My concern is when this slows down and they’re not going full tilt, and they have time to kind of reflect on what they’ve seen and what they’ve done,” he said. “That’s when the critical incident stress starts to kick in.”

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