Near Mudslide Site, Two Young Families Shaken, Uncertain

Near Mudslide Site, Two Young Families Shaken, Uncertain

By Jack Broom, The Seattle Times

OSO, Wash. — Two young families who live just outside the section of Highway 530 closed by the March 22 mudslide say the disaster has left them shaken, and uncertain what to do next.

“If it was just me, I’d stay out here forever, but we’ve got three kids to think about,” said Brittney Lein, 26. She and her husband, Jon, knew one of the mudslide’s confirmed victims and two others who are listed as missing.

A “God bless Oso” sign that Lein painted hangs along the family’s driveway, which is just west of where road signs and a law-enforcement vehicle mark the farthest east the public can drive, 14 miles east of Arlington, Wash.

Lein said the landslide’s immense debris field is about a mile and a half away.

“We bought this place, so we can’t just leave,” she said. “But if we could sell it. … We’d have to give it some thought.” The couple’s children are 10, six, and one and a half.

Lein said the house is on an elevated piece of ground considered safe from floods. But she had no idea of its potential vulnerability to landslides until — after last month’s slide — she looked at a U.S. Geological Survey map online. It indicates that several other nearby hills could be prone to slides, she said.

The Leins moved from Arlington to the picturesque area along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River three years ago. “It was a good deal, and we’re country people,” she said. “We don’t really like the city.”

Next door, Olivia McKernan said she and her husband, Jordan Quillen, moved from Monroe eight months ago for the quiet, and the proximity of the mountains.

“I grew up in Leavenworth, and this reminded me of that. It seemed perfect,” Olivia McKernan said. The couple have a 10-month-old son.

McKernan and her husband rent, and are less tied down than the Leins, but have not decided what they will do. She didn’t know any of the victims personally, but shares the community’s sense of loss.

“I’ve been pretty much inside and haven’t really met many people,” she said.

The two women’s husbands, both electricians, drive together to work in the Bellevue area.

Brittney Lein said her husband had built a cabin for John and Kris Regelbrugge, who lived on Steelhead Drive in the slide area. John Regelbrugge’s body has been recovered; his wife has been listed as missing.

Also missing is Mark Gustafson, whom Lein said lived alone.

Lein said Gustafson and Jon Lein sometimes worked together on cabins and other construction jobs.

In fact, she said, the Leins still have a recorded phone message from Gustafson, in which he called a couple days before the slide to see if Jon Lein knew of any available work.

Although she isn’t sure what relatives Gustafson had, Brittney Lein said she is keeping the recording in case they would like to hear his voice.

The slide “felt like an earthquake,” Brittney Lein said, although her kids, who had been playing in the house, said they did not feel it. The family was evacuated for about four days.

Since returning, she has felt herself flinch from the vibrations whenever heavy trucks pass, often loaded with rocks to build an emergency-access road. “My first thought is: Is it another slide?”

David Ryder


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