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President Obama signs emergency declaration for Washington State to help mudslide victims

Good news. This just in from the White House:

Today, the President declared an emergency in the State of Washington and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from flooding and mudslides beginning on March 22, 2014, and continuing.

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Snohomish County.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Michael J. Hall as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

The Obama administration’s prompt authorization of federal assistance is greatly appreciated. The Stillaguamish River remains mostly dammed by the massive mudslide that wiped out entire neighborhoods near Oso and buried a mile-long stretch of State Route 530 between Darrington and Arlington in muck.

The death toll now stands at fourteen and over one hundred people are still listed as missing. Hopefully those still missing can still be accounted for.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement a little bit ago respectfully asking the news media to give families affected by the mudslide some privacy:

This is an extremely difficult and emotional time for the families and friends of those impacted by the Oso mudslide.

Family members are grieving, trying to focus on finding missing loved ones or working through the process of rebuilding what was lost.

I understand the news media plays an important role in tragic events like this and in this instance has worked long hours to help warn the public of dangers and publicize where people can turn for help.

But some families have asked us to ask the media to be respectful of their privacy and their grief. This is especially true for displaced families in local shelters. I want to reinforce local officials’ request that the media allow those shelters to be a zone of privacy while reporters continue to do their vital job. Thank you.

Kudos to the governor for speaking out on behalf of the affected families, many of whom lost their homes and their belongings (and likely their property as well). They are not the stars of a disaster reality show, and they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are. They’re the victims of a geologic hazard that struck without warning, wiping out a rural Snohomish County community alongside the Stillaguamish.