Transcript for Emergency Workers Struggle With Mudslide Rescue Efforts
This is a special room. The fifth day of the -- search for survivors still some still hoping to find the missing alive somewhere under the sludge of twisted cars and splintered homes. But hope is fading some of those residents reaching in the rubble of what was once their home the heartbreak setting -- It's -- to your house. In pieces history. And that's what it is. Hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York with an ABC news digital special report. The search for the missing in the Washington State mudslides let's go right to the scene. ABC's peak of the GO watching that offer us a -- Well Michelle the search crews behind me getting ready to head back out again for a -- today the National Guard US naval officers. -- seems as far away as California are all involved today. The county is adding more people more resource as with every day but the news hasn't changed -- 24 people now confirmed dead with that death -- expected to go up again. New video release from snohomish county shows the dangerous conditions crews are battling. Watch closely as his first responders who seem to say before you'll than man is seeking in the month as he carries the boy to safety. When it's just open under the so very personal such as a whole group a little boys have belonged to somebody some little child that they. A student in a basket I just Dominic that was a killer. Crews are now entering their fifth day combing through mountains of debris using don't serves in search stops -- pinging cell phones at the meeting but the aggressive search -- only yielded green results. The news taking its -- on rescuers. There are literally getting stuck some. Sometimes all the way up to their waste among the victims identified veteran navy commander John rebel group Linda McPherson a former librarian and school board member. Pristina Jeffords was a dental office manager and mother of three her husband a volunteer firefighter away with his daughter when this hillside collapsed. She -- joined the world wherever she -- you could not help but like her. And after that -- is shared by so many here with more than a hundred people still missing. The community is bracing for more -- And with that grim search continuing today snohomish county has run and mental health counselors for those first responders many of them. Now -- showing signs -- PT FD Michelle Makiko thank you very much in Darington. Washington we want to go to -- home as. County where emergency officials are -- in a press conference right now let's listen in for the latest. Good morning again ultimately -- for being -- this morning and also for all that you are doing to support this community. I -- also express my deep gratitude. To all the local state and federal federal agencies as well as our volunteers to assist in this county. In this -- time of need. As you know before this tragedy. People outside of our state probably couldn't find snohomish county on a map to -- The world knows where also it is. And they also know that we are more than a small community we are a large family and -- -- handed over to Key West. If she's there. We start as you probably know this by now. -- -- -- -- Is taking some well deserved rest so that he can regroup and come back more energized so that chief Wesley. -- EST LEK. Steve. And I'm knee operations section chief for the incident -- that since they -- and with northwest victory came. -- -- -- -- -- -- So today -- -- give you an update on -- data plan. And but first I want to start out about about our responders out there. Our main drive is to take care of them and whether it's logistically. Or operationally that is my intent to keep them safe. Bad water. Breast X that are so that is my main drive and that's our focus moving forward. With in my time never going to be here and our databases. With the weather issues we had yesterday. They got beat up in relation to. Trying to accomplish the objective and and moving forward with that. So today. On the west side we have integrated National Guard in the extraction team to assist us in that it started yesterday and -- we fully integrated today. On the on the west side -- -- branch. And their objective is to we set up a grid system that will ensure that we're covering all the areas. And network. We will cover it more than once music do it once twice or three times as needed to make sure that we're covering all areas that we need to go go into. On the east side we have been very -- -- we. The Washington task force one immigrated AM. Which are providing a lot of expertise in that in that -- -- type mode over there. It's really similar to the National Guard there -- capabilities. And we also have. Other plans in place -- -- side to open up access for us. To get into. The site -- because we have the water infiltration. Issue the pond. On the east side. And I'll let some -- speak to the level of levels of water what -- what -- Generally that's what we're seeing today. -- -- -- -- -- -- But also invited a new sheriff share -- to come -- and give -- just an overview of what its operations here. Morning it's -- to -- TRE. NA RY just want to take a moment to recognize all of the the community volunteers. Both from Arlington and Darington. -- -- making good progress but candidly the reason we're making good progress is because of our community. Folks have. As you probably know are absolutely working tirelessly. To try and help us accomplish what we're what we're here to do -- just had to rescue and recover folks or impacted by the -- Also want to recognize the men and women of the snohomish county sheriff's office because they too have really stepped up at the plate and they're trying to do all that they can. To it took to basically find those folks that are missing. What we're doing now that's kind of been talked about I'm sure most of you know is we've asked for outside resources specifically the pierce county sheriff's office sheriff Paul pastor were sent. One of the best teams that we have in the country up to help us and we're getting help and cooperation from just about everybody and our state. And around the region and that's allowing us to be very successful who -- turned back over. -- -- -- Thank you just feel tremendous work. Us. Good morning everyone. Didn't. A lot of information in this morning. And I'm gonna start by sharing with you that I've been meeting pretty extensively with FEMA and state represented at looking at the process. Integrating more thoroughly federal state assets resources. In looking forward a little bit a few -- down as to what it might look like after. This presidential declaration process starts to unfold a little bit because it will. They'll change the dynamic a little bit something that you might notice in the future. I met this morning actually with a state coordinating officer who would have been appointed by governor and -- Where we are -- we have a federal declaration. For direct federal assistance there whole. Range of federal disaster declarations that exist out there they can be very complicated. What I'd like to go and clarify I think the state and feds did it's sort of a good job on this that. We have direct federal assistance. That's a really good thing for us because it's essentially says that the federal government can come in and do things unimpeded. Without a lot of bureaucracy. And and that will help us what we don't have yet actually is -- -- more formalized process of a traditional disaster declaration. That includes things such as. Debris removal and emergency protective measures but that is in the process and that's coming and that's what -- -- working on diligently with our folks. At the state and FEMA so I had a meeting with the state coordinating officer. And and meeting at 10:30 this morning. With the federal coordinating officer which is the that's at 1030 today. And then this evening -- -- -- and let you all know that this morning's briefing will include that state federal coordinating officer. The the State's coordinating officer and a team doubt. -- well I think demonstrated a little more. High level coordination for these particular briefings which it's appropriate to do that at this point. Yesterday one one of the key assets and wanted to get. A lot of gratitude to the State's adjutant general -- daughter. He has been outstanding to work west and the sheriff as an example requested. That we have helicopter assets that come in and supplement those things that he is has been providing another regional assets have provided and we -- wonderful. Really amazing regional air asset division in the Puget Sound -- we support each other. Daily. So this event we we we have extended those resources and the state stepped up with -- National Guard helicopters. That will transport people over the slide back and forth to Darington as an example. The the the rescuers and those that are searching that's a huge huge issue for us. On -- move into following up a little bit on that information from last night which was. What support services are out there for the community. And just a little bit of her view and some updates on those issues. Community transit which again for those of you outside of -- -- any community transit is our centralized bus system. Or the snohomish county busing system they do a great job very highly respected. And today they're expected to announce the start of that emergency bus service to and from Darington. It will run for those -- -- -- -- -- that are listening this morning it will run from -- in the morning at a particular time out to -- -- drive park and ride. And -- take you into the Everett area so it will provide a critical lifeline if you get groceries pharmaceuticals those things that you -- until we have a long term resolution to transportation issues. If you need more information on that community transit dot org is that website I'd like to say that one more -- community transit dot org. And we really expect that to be -- critical component -- opening. The transportation for hours. The crisis care hotline that I mentioned to you last night is up and running 1805843578. It is staffed around the clock for counseling -- for crisis intervention. I called that myself last night I wanted to find out one if it was up and -- what it's all well. It's working it's affected and I think it's going to be a wonderful asset and resource for the community. And like I mentioned last night it's not just those that are directly impacted it's a lot of individuals in this still -- valley. Anyone that basically is impacted to contact that number and talk to them. The family assistance center for the relatives of those who have died is opening as well today. That's going to be -- announce it's a combination between the mortuary team that we were requested in the medical Examiner's office of snohomish county. That is again for those loved ones of individuals who have perished in the -- And this is where -- -- and again respectfully ask that you. Be respectful of that process for them very difficult and and and I trust that you guys will do that for us. They're they're hurting very very badly right now. Donation management centers should be opened today in -- ten in Arlington I don't have those actresses for you. But aren't during ten and Arlington are useful in the communities that you'll probably -- before -- -- to be honest with you. And again I don't know the donation management issues in the management of seventh day Adventist church in -- -- with the local governments. A brief pause to think all the local community support volunteers. We our -- We are humbled beyond belief in this county we have received. It's. It is. Is very humbling. It is very humbling and we're. Respectfully very critical. A community meeting has been set for tonight at 730 injuring ten. It's a change in time because of a prayer group. That is actually set for 7 PM. Represented -- -- will be in during and today. And -- -- take a personal moment and let you know that represented dealt -- has been unbelievable through this whole process the entire congressional delegation. She showed up with us from the very beginning and she actually did not leave my side. And it was not a matter of what can I do for you in the congressional stamp -- from the congressional standpoint it was what can I do for you. Personally in this team. And she was running to get -- water she's running to get sandwich is. Making inquiries and using that political clout for all the right reasons we are so many bad things out there -- elected officials. Over guys are stepping up and and exactly the right thing and using that authority. And that clout that they haven't we had Washington State for all the right reasons. The Washington state department of licensing is expected to be in -- today from 9 AM to 7 PM I'm sorry that will be on Thursday tomorrow to help -- issue licenses to those who have lost them. Again governor and sleep pushing this issue very very hard. And these are the things that we take for granted every day that you can pull out your wallet your back pocket and you've got a driver's license. For those that have lost all identification. This becomes absolutely imperative right now and the governor's office has made it abundantly clear the state agencies are going to step up and -- confirming with you right now. They are stepping up in ways that I haven't seen. And disasters. Really across the country. We also have to sheriff's that are now on duty 4247. In a traditional role to support residents not just in the response road mode -- -- search and rescue mode. Dear -- just four. -- things that you would expect. A community have so we have two officers when he forced out and and and we're deeply grateful to Sonoma county sheriff's office -- that. We also have full paramedic and during -- now as well for those specific reasons. Have a 911 call for a heart attack or I have -- -- -- call powerful in the blank. That we have more traditional. Structure their 41 responders in the community. The communities are seeing a large number of donations. In supplies and we want to city thank -- to anyone who was giving them I will tell you specifically The Home Depot Costco and other local businesses in snohomish county have really stepped up. Home Depot and Costco -- would expect that from then you've heard that before. Nothing is different here only that it impacts us directly -- for that we're deeply grateful. Last united way has raised approximately 75000 dollars for the Darington community. And Dunn in for that again people are are dipping into their pockets and helping us. And if you want to donate to the united way we always -- -- that we also would encourage donations to the American Red Cross the snohomish county chapter of the American Red Cross is. Probably one of the more robust Red -- is in the United States in that we have routine flooding. We have shelter operations. A lot and we're we're very good at tests. Last is that we are going to begin coordinating media tours -- to get me out to the site it's it's time. It's probably overdue we apologize for not wearing it sooner but -- -- gonna begin that process you deserve that access and we -- -- offer that he will provide more information. Following this briefing later through the day. With that I'd like to ask Steve Thompson to come up and talk a little bit about some technical stuff going on right now. Morning Steve Thompson. -- -- public works director. So. The talk on the cruise -- -- -- is nearly open we're targeting 1 o'clock today. Now that route opens a long ways around about an hour around there used to be 3540 minutes and I caution. Anybody that he's our roads please be aware it's going to be mountainous road -- spots there's fourteen miles that used to be gravel they'll be single lane. Sections with -- slipping on a two lane road. Not a high speed road this is -- -- back access into Darington again an hour to get around there that's going to be open a 1 o'clock today. As far as the site we continue to monitor water levels what's going out there and the weather. River continues to do we expected -- -- -- into the -- debris it's draining the impoundment. There's probably. Modern -- million cubic feet of water stored behind that impoundment. But is being released. Between Monday and Tuesday it dropped an estimated well dropped about half but based on field -- that's good news. You really need to get that site do you watered. So that we can work -- -- -- it's very very wet brewers' sloppy muddy conditions. My geologists. Cannot navigate out into the might even. It once you get off the road which is very difficult going for them and the rescue workers. -- also got eyes on the slide on a daily basis to monitor pretty changes so far no changes have been no editor are. Observed it's it's stabilize that today and probably for the next few days but we'll continue to monitor. Thank you. -- -- -- -- -- -- Actually express gonna if your gonna you're gonna offer me the opportunity to clarify a statement that I made that I I finally got a chance look at some of the media that's out there. Let me clarify that were safe and what I was referring to. In 2006 there was the original -- we don't now know that it was is a pretty decent -- slide that impact community flooded a pretty good. There was a lot of mitigation effort that went into that river after that fact and I talked about millions of dollars worth of work in the objective was to. Shore up the side and to allow. Control of the channel so that the channel of the river to move anywhere else. Part of that was also that it would essentially be able to catch small -- landslides slumping off on one side or the other that would've come through. That was in 2006 and we've been through good grief a lot of flights. And that community felt safe because of that mitigation effort it was extensive and it included -- made a mistake earlier accidentally -- right it was a stolen -- right. And my apologies to the to the -- -- they stepped up and put in a lot of effort in and out. We really did a great job of mitigating and we did a great job in mitigating the potential for -- -- likes to come in and impact the community. So from 2006 to this point 2014. The community did feel safe and they fully understood the risk based on things like the natural hazard mitigation plan that we put out into doesn't intend. And then and it's being updated actually as we speak in and that there's a chapter that's dedicated just -- landslides. And it's a comprehensive process by which we talk about -- lights. And in there are maps that have the hot spots that include this very area people knew that this is a landslide prone area. Sometimes big events just happen sometimes large events that nobody sees happens. And this event happened. And I want to find out why I want to understand why I want to understand. The dynamic of a potential small earthquake behind it that shook loose. And I don't have those answers right now but we want those answers we want -- step back when response and recovery. Is essentially completed and the after action reports and studies. And get a feel for how can we predict things like this in the future. But I appreciate you giving me an opportunity clarified. That the community did feel -- they knew the risk but they felt safe from those smaller -- We're now day four or five into this and we now know this wasn't a small -- it was large. It was very catastrophic. And we endured in this community and -- -- reported on it you've helped need to report -- the landslide risk for this winter has been amazing. You know you've reported it it's what we've done together as a team. The department natural resources has put out those plants like morning risk on a routine basis we've seen the sounder transit. Lines close routinely. Sometimes landslides that are this catastrophic just happen and I think that's where we are pleased to report. To work here -- I'm not sure that we could have and that's what I want to step back and really get into later. But you've offered an opportunity for me to clarify that statement and -- I really appreciate that because. It haunts me because that's not. We did everything that we -- done in the community did feel -- they understood that risk and we were I think. I think we did what we could do sometimes large slides happen but thank you. -- Work -- Yes. You know. I built this department beginning in 2006. I built it for medium to large scale events floods earthquakes when storms the usual suspects. But we also built it knowing that we are just the county of 700 and fill in the blank thousand people. And that we have pretty extensive. Risks that are out there that could create situations like this -- built platforms. By which we can integrate state resources and federal resources. The majority of our team came from FEMA. In the department we're seeing as we understand model. The National Guard and state assets are that first out that when we reach out generally what we do as we say okay. We've responded very well. Now -- -- kind of -- out resources we reached a mutual aid. -- as the sheriff pointed out and others would point out we reached out for partners in pierce county the city of Seattle. Facility at city -- hasn't incident management team helping need to manage -- an emergency operation center and ever bright house is a great example. Mutually everywhere then you move to that next logical step which is the state. The governor made it very clear to me very personally. We will do anything we -- to -- -- the National Guard comes then west as an example the search and extraction team a team of about fifty individuals that would position on the other side of the slide. What it does is it alleviates the immediate pressure on the local responders. To effectively. Coach when he 47 point 47 point 47 and -- out. The helicopters. Two Blackhawk helicopters -- to -- -- -- for a while. Does a huge assets of the state has tremendous resources we have to make. I made it abundantly clear the state has amazing resources that supplement what we're doing and the timing is perfect for integrating those. But we also have in the process of looking at the federal government. The federal government now steps -- with declarations. And neighboring frankly the power of the federal government the assets of the federal government and the blessing the -- lesson we have. We I don't think we've taken away from this yet the president -- stepped away. From a meeting overseas. To talk about the land that we're standing on right now. And about direct federal assistance. That is not common in the disaster world you usually have to respond with your assets your resources. When the president the United States steps out from his meeting on nuclear proliferation or whatever the meeting was and it was big. The talks about -- -- Washington. And direct federal assistance. And long term recovery. That becomes an imperative to how we pull this community back. It. But nothing has changed overnight and it provides me an opportunity to ensure -- that 176 numbers exactly that's still this morning. But they made tremendous progress in getting that -- a little -- result. This afternoon I am going to have for you a number. Even if it's higher or lower. It doesn't matter and a -- for your number because that made that commitment to you -- honored out. But the process is moving forward. The that the numbers are until that point just the same. Page and it will. Pardon -- -- -- -- -- -- It kinda went all over the map that's why didn't want to bring it up to you guys yesterday because it it I didn't feel comfortable in saying it because when I say it it's out there. So -- -- sixes the last kind of credible number that we had unaccounted missing individuals. And we still I am very confident that number will drop in the -- we're still living room with the John Doe's vs the John fifty -- And were reconciling them what we're making great progress and frankly it's because of the sheriff's office missing persons experts they are doing just an incredible job of pulling those pieces together. -- -- -- I don't stray too far there because we're still in response but. But. The transition that naturally happens towards the recovery process and in -- when it clarified. Recovery meaning the recovery of the economy the recovery of the -- for the community recovery for the individuals. It becomes a very structured process that we are well prepared for so -- -- we've been planning for these things for many many years. We teach a lot of this at FEMA and the department Homeland Security so well versed in recovery. And frankly there -- a lot of examples now out their communities that have had to go through long from recovery. I don't think there's any hiding the fact that Darington. As a town will need to be the focal point economic recovery. And we are beginning the planning process is about literally right now -- we're we're already in the process of looking ahead but the main thing at this point -- -- to continue to support. The response operations in the recovery operations as there are. -- bowl of very desperate request but. I anticipate. Very strongly that we will have a traditional. Federal disaster declaration. And explaining that process if you would allow me just a minute to do that you hear the term presidential disaster declaration. It's called a major disaster declaration. And what it incorporates are two different versions. Within -- individual assistance and public assistance. Individual assistance are the homeowners that are impacted by this and I anticipate very strongly that we -- received that kind of a declaration. Very -- what that will do will open up the traditional resources that you see post hurricane post tornado post earthquake. Where you'll have a disaster recovery center that we will coordinate with peanuts on which -- pretty with -- state and set up again go -- let you know right now. Beyond a shadow it out one will be a -- -- will be in Arlington. Individuals we'll have the ability to walk through the door and they will get a whole host of federal assistance state assistance. Small Business Administration. Crisis counseling it will be kind of a centralized focal point. What is you. The federal system takes a lot of heat but it is the most progressive -- effective. Recovery system from natural disasters and other disasters. In the in the world it is very effective and it becomes a one on once of that individual victim that is out there right now that has been displaced. Will be walked through door and guided through the policies that can help them and the programs that can help them get back on their feet. And I'm Catholic confident that that is and help these communities when we receive a federal declaration the other half of that man. This public assistance. The infrastructure that was impacted was a school destroyed was a road destroyed what we know -- 530 was destroyed and some -- fashion. We haven't figured out what that cost is and power lines that's a structured process that will go through as far as a disaster declaration. But at this point what we have is direct federal assistance. It's appreciated it and -- -- utilizing its the maximum benefit of the six. -- -- -- -- -- -- The official is sixteen and as of yesterday we believe that we have identified. Or located. The additional aid so those numbers and I really want a state that because we there is a very structured process and it makes it very difficult for us but I do want to clarify that. -- the process and of of of producing numbers is delicate and has to be very respectful as well but what we had a sixteen that are confirmed. Two of those confirmed that additional yesterday and then we believe that we have. Located an additional -- but that is not a confirmed number yet. I'm absolutely and that's the that's what's more the presence of -- and made. -- Or -- one. Or earlier when news. Actually we began putting requests and you know the first thing that you're gonna do and we can go back and examine this again later with the same questions that you ask which I think are wholly appropriate. But the very long story short as we had to -- -- of that situation with us on everything. And you heard just like we did just like I received phone -- that there was a Lance like. And then we start pulling the data -- none of -- -- -- -- and -- The the initial response began it became clear that we were getting overwhelmed. We managed it is -- we -- but we had already teed up all those assets and candidly you don't -- -- cult -- resources until you absolutely need them and we knew that we needed an -- putting those requests the state. The state -- very far for the federal government -- very -- fort. We received all of that very quickly just take them long to get. People mobilized. I think a good example. The best example that I can -- view -- where we have accelerated the process is with the sheriff's specific request. Of the urban search and rescue team that came out Tacoma. FEMA through their policies and processes. Wanted to deploy -- team out of California. It was taken approximately 34 days to get here that would have been great we -- utilize them but the sheriff threw his. Understanding knowledge and vision of this issue recognize we need to do it ourselves in the end we may have to pay for -- snohomish -- ourselves that's okay. But the point as we knew there was an asset and resource that was closer. Could be just as effective more quickly. And give us a greater chance of finding someone alive or helping -- just an apple process that's the best example liking -- -- I don't like I finally had a chance like is that -- read some of the reports as well and I don't I don't know I think it's certainly worth examining but I don't know those answers. I think we have to I think -- -- guys. Thank you so -- so very much I really appreciate it. -- we want to bring -- ABC's Neal Karlinsky -- who was. On the scene and Darington Washington monitoring the situation. He joins us on the phone -- the question that keeps surfacing was this catastrophic slide predicted fifteen years ago. When a scientist warned about potential for this landslide in the this very community. There were warnings and -- getting more more information about a day about -- yesterday we heard the report written in 1999 at Warner catastrophic slot in this area now -- -- that there -- actually were -- very late 2010 report. I was actually commissioned by the county snohomish county itself. -- a federal law and it included about that highlighted apparently doesn't have very. Where the slopes were very hazardous and -- included this what exactly they're the spot. -- -- devastating Matt mud slide occurred and where by the way they had an enormous mud slide in 2000. And they always seen the video we're watching all of this equipment move and that they can get and it looks like -- the conditions -- to. To be very challenging for them what are you hearing on your -- The conditions are terrible they were terrible. When this first occurred and -- over the last and a -- -- is -- under rain it was pouring. Is incredibly you know under enormous amount of water coming down yesterday sedate and makes the summit actually -- right now but. Basically by keeping their whole areas so -- -- -- created this. What they describe it almost quicksand like conditions where you stick one foot in -- recent -- your interior -- -- -- -- -- get stuck. Very competent move around in addition you know that -- -- and they have -- picking up. I mean its a real disaster -- and and very -- -- to get around. Interestingly even though they have -- high per year that -- used in urban environment after an earthquake for instance they -- dog. The search dogs are actually the most effective -- have a -- who -- on zeroing in on the body. -- that they have -- so -- And it seems that they're focusing on both ends of the slide of course the west side they said at the National Guard is being integrated into that area today. And they set up a grid system what is that grid system. Well there -- a lot of people and more coming all -- about 200. And there are two went to the audit of these international cargo going in the last time and -- in on the east side. Essentially they're just trying to comb through this area by dividing it up in the race to make sure that they don't get it back initiative that they're -- -- -- -- -- spot. More than -- because. What this place looked like before it not what it looks like now so markers and identification -- houses and you can you know street or are just not there and they need to make sure -- very methodical way. But they cover everything. They don't don't haven't great handle on who always been there. And it's a rescue and recovery here but what what are the chances in what are you hearing at this point five days later about any one. Being found alive. They -- determined they -- to not give up and whether they you know describe that a recovery. Or search and prosecutors say -- this thing they'll be looking for people. If there is any hope of anyone being alive but frankly they say it is extremely unlikely -- not been a survivor found Saturday. But dog was found alive one day later but they're not and human survivor. Saturday. So it it is unfortunately. Not looking good in that regard. And of course a very emotional told that this has taken in that area we've just heard from John Pennington there. He said that that outpouring of support has been humbling than he actually got a little bit emotional and so that they are very grateful give us an idea. Of the the morale there. Well there's a very sort of Greece and the determination. In in -- and people. Very much want to get -- -- on their own and find some resolution find out what happened to their loved ones bring them home. But obviously people are shell shocked this came out of the blue lot -- Saturday morning beautiful Saturday morning. And so is transformed this area from the public officials at the county level -- the people who -- Down in the -- And I think -- gonna take them a long time to process that. We -- Karlinsky thank you very much for joining us on the phone. This has been an ABC news digital special report I'm Michelle -- in New York you can of course keep up with the story in real time by downloaded the ABC news -- and starring this story for exclusive updates on ago.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.