911 tapes reveal how devastating landslide unfolded

by: Deborah Horne Updated:

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OSO, Wash. —

Even for those accustomed to tragedy, it took several minutes for the enormity of the Oso landslide to sink in.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "Cedar and there's kind of a cul-de-sac.  Maybe head up there."

The first few dispatches show no one knew just how big a tragedy the Oso landslide would become.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "State Patrol also advised the roads are flooding. The lines are down."

But then you can begin hearing the urgency in the voices of the first responders.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "We're hearing cries from somewhere over there. Are you guys hearing the same thing?"

At about that time, the first responders begin to realize they are dealing with something out of the ordinary.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "This is a major slide here. There are houses onto, out into the main road of (highway) 530."

And there still those sounds of life.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER: "I'm just letting you know, we're hearing cries, possibly a child, from this side."

And the frustration begins to build.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "I believe we're going to need additional helicopters to get in here. We're unable to get to these residents."

So they started asking for reinforcements.

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "Requesting the Stillaguamish Swift Water Team to respond to the incident on Whitman Road."

And then there was this:

VOICE OF FIRST RESPONDER:  "You may try to get down to Steelhead Drive to see if that major event took out that hillside also."

We now know what they found on Steelhead Drive.  An entire neighborhood inundated -- its residents and everything they had, swept apart by a river of mud.