Nightly News   |  April 05, 2014

How Washington Mudslide Catastrophe Could Have Been Prevented

There are signs more could have been done to prevent the death toll from the deadly Washington mudslide.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> funerals were being held today for the victims of the mudslide in washington state two weeks ago. there's new questions tonight about whether more could have been done to keep people out of harm's way. we get more on this tonight from nbc's joe fryer.

>> reporter: the deadly mudslide in oso, washington took so much.

>> never in my wildest dreams thought something like that would happen.

>> reporter: he lost his wife and 4 month old granddaughter.

>> you lived in that neighborhood for 16 years. were you aware of any risk at all?

>> not of that.

>> reporter: the mudslide raised many questions, especially for karen who specializes in cases about landslides.

>> any time i first hear about a landslide, my first question is has there been a landslide there before?

>> reporter: in this case the answer is yes. the same hill saw slides in 1949 , '51, '67, '88, and 2006 .

>> and to have five of them, you know, that's a lot of landslides.

>> reporter: the river cuts into the toe of the sloped hill causing erosion and increasing the risk for slides. a 1999 draft report commissioned by the u.s. army corp. of engineers to study the impact on fish warned of the potential for a fail in this area. another draft report in 2000 said the hill posed a significant risk to human lives and private property.

>> was this known? did people understand this?

>> reporter: then in 2004 their own document showed officials considered buying out homes in the neighborhood saying the cost would be significant but would remove the risk to human life and structures. instead, county officials recommended stabilizing the slope saying the landslide risk could be reduced or eliminated. before that could be finished in 2006 , a slide struck. no houses were hit but mud clogged the river threatening to flood homes. he lost his family in the most recent slide and was among those that evacuated in 2006 .

>> we're getting out.

>> reporter: after that they placed barriers in the river to help stabilize the area and many neighbors thought they were safe.

>> they implied the problems were fixed and we were done with it.

>> you felt the problem was solved?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: with the first of many funerals beginning and the search for victims on going, officials are declining to comment on hair past efforts to address a slope with a turbulent past. joe fryer, nbc news, oso, washington.