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Authorities Relieved As Flow Levels Return To Normal Post-Landslide

On Saturday, March 22, a massive mudslide blocked both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, Wash.
Washington State Department of Transportation
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On Saturday, March 22, a massive mudslide blocked both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, Wash.

Authorities are breathing a small sigh of relief, amidst all the destruction from the fatal landslide on the Stillaguamish River.

They’re relieved because the river flow is getting back to normal.

When the landslide blocked the Stillaguamish River, water began to collect above all the muck and debris, causing flow rates down river from the landslide to plummet.

"It was a pretty quick drop, like turning off the faucet, not turning it off all the way but letting it drip a little bit," said Marijke van Heeswijk, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

A few hours after the slide the river was flowing less than half as fast as it was before the slide. Water levels dropped by more than a foot.

That had authorities warning of flood risks, should the mucky dam give way and release all that built up water.

But it looks like nature is showing some mercy, amidst all the destruction. The river is now carving a channel through the muck.

“From what they’re seeing right now, they believe that a catastrophic breach is no longer expected," said Heeswijk. "But they’ll continue to monitor it and make recommendations.”

Flow rates below the landslide on the Stillaguamish are now back to normal.

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Ashley Ahearn