Mudslide Survivors Stunned at Damage: Should They Have Been Warned?

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In the wake of a deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash., residents who lived in the neighborhood below the hillside said they thought they were safe, despite a history of slides in the area -- including one as recent as 2006.

Seth Jefferds, who lost his wife and granddaughter in the slide, moved to the neighborhood 16 years ago. He was there in 2006 when a mudslide clogged the Stillaguamish River and threatened to flood his home.

But the hill's eventful history suggests the risk was tough to avoid. Reports in 1999 and 2000 warned of the potential for "catastrophic failure." And about four years later, Snohomish County considered buying out homes that could have been affected by a landslide, documents show.

The cost would be significant, but “would remove the risk to human life and structures,” the county’s 2004 report says.

Officials eventually decided to stabilize the slope, saying that could reduce or eliminate the landslide risk.

After a mudslide in 2006, officials put a barrier in the river to help preserve the hillside. Jefferds -- like many in the neighborhood -- thought there was nothing to worry about. Now he questions if more could have been done.