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Interior Secretary Jewell Sees Oso Slide, Makes Plea For More Preparedness Through Science

Elaine Thomson
AP Photo
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell stands in view of a now-barren hillside where 43 people were killed in the Oso landslide over a year ago. Jewell was in the area to view the devastation for the first time.

It has been about a year and a half since the tragic mudslide in Oso that killed 43 people.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell saw the site of the slide for the first time on Thursday. She was home in the Northwest highlighting the need for more disaster preparedness. 

Secretary Jewell went to the landslide site before taking part in an earthquake drill with students from Darrington. She says what struck her most about seeing the hillside above Steelhead Drive in Oso, was how small and ordinary the foothill was that suddenly liquefied and smothered an entire neighborhood.

“And how many thousands of foothills that look exactly like that I have driven by going to adventure in the Cascade Mountains,” Jewell said.   “It’s extraordinary what happened, in an area that would seem ordinary and not at risk.”

She says it is a good reminder that early warning systems and scientific data can be used to detect those risks.

High-resolution LIDAR mapping is the tool that was mentioned most often at a roundtable discussion about climate change and natural disasters that Jewell took part in after the Oso visit.

Scientists from the United States Geological Survey told Jewell only about 20% of Washington state is covered by LIDAR maps so far. They said the maps cost about $600 per square mile to complete. 

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