Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now

Medal Of Valor Honors Hundreds Of Oso Heroes

caption: The site of the deadly Oso, Washington mudslide on March 22, 2014.
Enlarge Icon
The site of the deadly Oso, Washington mudslide on March 22, 2014.
Flickr Photo/GovInslee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Kim Malcolm talks with Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins about the policy changes state lawmakers are considering one year after the Oso landslide that killed 43 people.

Interview highlights:

Who will receive the Medal of Valor this year?

Well, this is a unique case. Usually it would go to an individual or a group of named individuals.

In this case, the medal is being given to the communities of Oso, Darrington, Arlington and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe in honor of the hundreds of “heroes” – and that’s the word that’s used to describe them – who risked injury, death and made great personal sacrifice to assist in the rescue, recovery and relief efforts in the days and months following the slide.

What policy changes are under consideration by the legislature?

There are two Oso-related measures moving through the legislature.

One deals with a problem that arose in the immediate aftermath of the Oso landslide.

Because local resources were overwhelmed something called a “statewide mobilization” was requested. But the Washington State Patrol denied that request because of a prior Attorney General’s opinion that said mobilizations are only for fires. The State Patrol also believed it would have to pay for the mobilization.

And the second measure?

This would require the state’s Geological Survey to use the best readily available technology to map hazards in the state such as landslide and seismic hazards. This bill would also require the Geological Survey to create and make publicly available a database of Lidar and geological hazard maps.

Anything not be considered that surprises you?

Well, the Oso landslide took out a particular neighborhood. And we heard in the aftermath homeowners say that they had no idea they lived in a slide-prone area. And that when they had bought their homes they weren’t warned.

In California, there’s something called a Natural Hazards Disclosure form that’s required when selling property in a state-mapped hazard zone. We thought we’d see proposals for something similar here in Washington. Perhaps surprisingly we haven’t.

Why you can trust KUOW