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Slide Survivor: I Called County 3 Times Before Buying Home, But No One Warned Me

Courtesy Robin Youngblood
What's left of Robin Youngblood's property is seen in the wake of the mudslide.

Former Oso resident Robin Youngblood calls the mudslide she survived last month “devastating, horrific and totally unnecessary.” Thirty seven people are confirmed dead, and seven remain missing as crews search for remains. 

Youngblood was pulled from the ruins after her mobile home was flattened. She’s now on a mission to get laws changed to prevent people from building or remaining in slide-prone areas once the danger is known.

Rushing Wall Of Mud Traveling ‘193 Miles Per Hour’

Youngblood moved into her trailer home two years ago. It was on a two-parcel lot on an idyllic stretch, about a quarter mile from the banks of the Stillaguamish River.

Credit Ted S. Warren / AP Photo
AP Photo
Robin Youngblood poses for a photo Thursday, March 27, 2014, with Whitehorse Mountain behind her in Darrington, Wash.

When the mudslide began, she heard what sounded like an airplane crashing and ran to the window. Outside, she saw wall of mud some 20 feet high headed her way.

“One hundred ninety three miles per hour,” she said of the speed of the slide. “We went a quarter of a mile, under water and mud. I was conscious the whole time.”

Her daughter, son-in-law and grandson had left the property 15 minutes earlier. Their half of the house was completely crushed by the slide. The roof of the other half, where Youngblood and a friend were at the time, was blown off.

“And that’s what allowed us to be able to surface and find something to sit on, and yell for help, and get a helicopter out there. Because nobody could have walked to us; they would have drowned,” she said.

It took about an hour for help to arrive. She carried a neighbor’s baby out on her lap. And she could hardly sleep for a week; every time she closed her eyes, she would see mud coming.

‘This Disaster Did Not Have To Happen’

Youngblood says it’s fortunate that she had a trailer home. It moved more than some other structures, and her insurance policy was also better; she’s expecting a settlement.

Still, she’s angry that authorities allowed anyone to live in the area, even after a report from the Army Corps of Engineers warned in 1999 that the mountain was unstable and there was “grave danger of a future catastrophic event.”

“Now, when you use words like 'catastrophic event,' in my opinion, you don’t allow anything to be built there. This disaster did not have to happen,” she said.

‘Nobody Said A Word To Me About [A] Landslide’

Youngblood says the prior owner of the property told her nothing of any risk, and neither did the county.

“I called the county three times before I bought the place to find out that we were above the 100-year flood mark, to talk about what could be built there, to find out how to take care of the wetlands. Nobody said a word to me about [a] landslide," she said. "The mountain was a half a mile from me. Why would I ever think that there was danger?”

Youngblood is hoping to meet President Obama when he visits next week to talk to him about her concerns, and her plan to push for a law to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to