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USGS Geologist Doubts Cause Of Oso Landslide Will Ever Be Pinned Down

Courtesy of the Washington Governor's Office.

A federal geologist doubts the cause of the deadly landslide near Oso, Washington will ever be fully pinned down.

During testimony in Olympia Monday, USGS scientist Jonathan Godt said heavy rains in February and March certainly contributed to the slide. Geologists have also ruled out an earthquake as a trigger. But Godt says a big missing piece is groundwater flows, for which there's no data.

"We didn't have instruments in the ground at the time the landslide occurred, and you can't put the slide back up on the slope. So from an observational standpoint, that opportunity is lost," Godt said.

Godt spoke to a state panel which is reexamining logging rules around landslide prone areas. A Washington state geologist and a private consulting geologist also presented there. None would speculate if historic clear-cuts had anything to do with the March landslide. 

Investigators are asking for more money from FEMA to probe why the Oso landslide traveled so far from its origin.


Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.