On the morning of Saturday, March 22, 2014, a portion of an unstable hill collapsed, causing the most deadly natural landslide in US history. A wave of mud and debris, 25 feet high and traveling 60 miles an hour, engulfed an entire neighborhood four miles east of Oso, Washington. It swept across the Stillaguamish River and buried State Route 530, cutting off communication and transportation to small communities east of the slide. The slide covered nearly a square mile, destroyed 49 homes, and took 43 lives. President Elson Floyd quickly committed the resources of Washington State University to assist in the recovery, and asked WSU Extension to be on point for the institution.

In April 2014, as emergency response efforts turned toward long-term recovery strategies, WSU formed the interdisciplinary SR 530 Mudslide Recovery Team. Co-led by WSU Snohomish County Extension1 and the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services (DGSS), the team included members from the WSU Extension Community and Economic Development (CED), Youth and Family, and Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Units; the WSU Energy Office; WSU Everett; and CAHNRS Communications—all with diverse experience and backgrounds. The Team collaborated with elected leaders, tribal officials, area nonprofit leaders, state and federal agency personnel, and local citizens, making relevant expertise from across WSU available to aid in the rebuilding efforts and helping the communities move toward self-reliance and sustainable economic futures. The uniqueness of the WSU effort lies in the depth and diversity of team members who worked collaboratively to positively impact the community.

WSU’s initial response included one-year tuition waivers for students from the region, the placement of WSU-paid student summer interns in the communities, and the implementation of youth and economic development programming. Almost immediately, the WSU team started planning for transition from direct service to a more sustainable model.

Continue Reading the SR 530 Long Term Recovery Report