NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 24th, 2014

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.

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