Fire chief: ‘We've got a hard day ahead of us'


“We’ve got a hard day ahead of us,” said Snohomish County District 21 and 22 Fire Chief Travis Hots in regards to a forecast of heavy rain and 20 mph wind.

ARLINGTON, Wash. - Heavy rain and wind forecast in the area of the landslide that devastated the community of Oso will complicate the search and recovery effort and add moisture to the already unstable slope.

Up to an inch of rain is forecast Friday, as well as 20 mph winds in some places.

“We’ve got a hard day ahead of us,” said Snohomish County District 21 and 22 Fire Chief Travis Hots at a Friday morning news conference in Arlington.  “We've got new geologists that are arriving on the scene to offer additional opinions to make sure there's not the risk of additional slides that could occur up there.”

Forecasters said rainfall in the valley also is likely to increase the flow in the river, and a flood warning remains in effect for pooling in the area immediately upstream of where the landslide blocked the river.    

The river has cut a channel through the blockage, but a flash flood watch is in effect for the area downstream, in case it suddenly gives way.   

Hots spoke about his concern for fatigued searchers and the emotional effects of some of the things they have seen and done.

 “Some of the folks have been there since day one. That's a huge concern for me. So we've brought in professionals to help out with making sure our people's needs are taken care of,” said Hots.

Photos of some of the missing and dead can be viewed here.

See photos of the disaster here.

Meanwhile, Snohomish County authorities put off updating the death toll from the catastrophic landslide in Oso after previously saying they would announce a substantial spike in the number of fatalities.    

Hots said Friday the official death stood at 17, though searchers have located additional bodies that are not part of that toll.    

The number of bodies found is 26, including an infant recovered Thursday.

But Hots now said the new numbers will be released Friday evening and that the information must come from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office after they go through the process of identifying the bodies that are recovered.

There's a push to release all of the names of the 90 people who are missing and presumed dead. 

Department of Emergency Management Director John Pennington has put in a request with the Snohomish County prosecuting attorney's office to determine if the names can be released.

Some families are trying to be patient, but just want someone to update them.

One woman anxiously waiting for word on four people missing in the slide said she had no idea her mother may have been found until KIRO 7 told her.

“I think I should get a ‘Hey, we think we found your mom.’  At least that, you know?” said Nichole Rivera Webb.

Webb Rivera said she called the medical examiner and family assistance Thursday. Someone called back about an hour later.

She said she was told the medical examiner is trying to identify people through dental records to spare the families the pain of viewing remains.

A chaplain will visit a victim's home when an identification is made.

No one will be notified by phone.