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OSO, Wash. (AP) — First there was a "whoosh." Elaine Young said she thought it might be a chimney fire, a rush of air that lasted about 45 seconds. But when she stepped outside there was ominous silence. Something felt very, very wrong.
 
And then she saw it. Behind the house, a suffocating wall of heavy mud had crashed through the neighborhood.
 
Dark and sticky, the mile-long flow Saturday heaved houses off their foundations, toppled trees and left a gaping cavity on what had been a tree-covered hillside. In the frantic rescue, searchers spotted mud-covered survivors by the whites of their waving palms.
 
Now, days into the search, the scale of the mudslide's devastation in a rural village north of Seattle is becoming apparent. At least 14 people are confirmed dead, dozens more are thought to be unaccounted for or missing, and about 30 homes are destroyed.
 
"We found a guy right here," shouted a rescuer Monday afternoon behind Young's home, after a golden retriever search dog found a corpse pinned under a pile of fallen trees. Searchers put a bag over the body, tied an orange ribbon on a branch to mark the site, and the crew moved on.
 
It had been stormy for weeks, but warm sunshine offered a false sense of peace Saturday morning as weekend visitors settled into their vacation homes and locals slept in. Then came "a giant slump," said David Montgomery, an earth and space sciences professor at the University of Washington, describing the deep-seated slide resulting from long-term, heavy rainfall.
 
A scientist who documented the landslide conditions on the hillside that buckled had warned in a 1999 report filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of "the potential for a large catastrophic failure," The Seattle Times reported late Monday.
 
That report was written by geomorphologist Daniel J. Miller and his wife, Lynne Rodgers Miller, The Times said (http://is.gd/yodBQx). "We've known it would happen at some point," Daniel Miller told the newspaper.
 
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick and Public Works Director Steve Thomsen said Monday night they were not aware of the 1999 report. "A slide of this magnitude is very difficult to predict," Thomsen told The Times. "There was no indication, no indication at all."
 
Within hours of the mudslide, emergency crews were searching for life in a post-apocalyptic scene, dodging chunks of splintered birch trunks, half-buried pickup trucks and growing pools of water from the now-blocked Stillaguamish River.
 
Ed Hrivnak, who was co-piloting an aircraft that was first to arrive at the scene, said a lot of the houses weren't buried. When they got hit, "the houses exploded." He said cars were crushed into little pieces, their tires the only signs that they had been vehicles.
 
He said he saw people so thoroughly covered in mud that searchers could only spot them by the whites of their waving palms. His helicopter rescued eight people, including a 4-year-old boy, who was up to his knees in concretelike compressed mud.
 
The mud was so sticky, the rescuers were worried about getting stuck so the helicopter hovered about a foot away and the crew chief tried to pull him out. "He was suctioned in that mud so much that his pants came off," Hrivnak said.
 
The boy was taken to a hospital and was reunited with his mom. Hrivnak said the boy's father and three siblings are still missing.
 
Friends and families immediately launched their own rescue missions.
 
Elaine and her husband, Don Young, picking their way through the devastation, heard tapping, a steady beat. They got closer and realized it was coming from their neighbors' buckled home.
 
Trapped in an air pocket, Gary "Mac" McPherson, 78, was banging away for help with a loose stick. The Youngs managed to pull him out, but family members said his wife, Linda McPherson, 69, a former librarian and school board member, did not survive.
 
Rescuers racing in fire trucks and ambulances screeched to a stop at the edge of the mile-square wasteland. Somewhere, someone was crying for help. When a team of firefighters waded chest-deep into the mud, they had to be rescued themselves, and the ground search was suspended overnight Saturday, with the death toll at three.
 
On Sunday, after geologists deemed the area stable enough to re-enter, another five bodies were found. By Monday, when another six corpses were located, exhaustion and despair were overtaking the early adrenaline and alarm.
 
Nichole Webb Rivera frantically texted her two adult sons, her daughter and her daughter's fiance in the area to make sure they were OK. She heard back from her sons, but nothing from the other two.
 
And no one has been able to reach Rivera's parents, who live in a house along the Stillaguamish River, smack in the middle of where the slide came crashing down. Relatives called around, but the somber reality soon set in.
 
"We've lost four," said Rivera, who grew up in Darrington, a logging town of about 1,400 people just to the east of the landslide.
 
Rivera has had no official confirmation from authorities. But when she saw an aerial photograph of Saturday's landslide, she knew her parents, Thom and Marcy Satterlee, and her daughter, 20-year-old Delaney Webb, and Webb's fiance didn't make it out.
 
"It sounds terribly morbid, but looking at it, I'm resigned," said Rivera, 39.
 
An American flag, salvaged unstained from the wreckage, had been draped over a buckled shed. "The situation is very grim," said Fire Chief Travis Hots, unshaven and with dark circles around his eyes. "We have not found anyone alive on this pile since Saturday."
 
Chain saws buzzed as friends and families cut toppled houses open on Monday. Buddy, a large chocolate Labrador, was pulled muddy and cut from under the ruins Sunday after a house was cut open. His owner has not been found.
 
McPherson, still hospitalized, abruptly a widower, asked his nephew Cory Kuntz to see if he could pull anything out of his home.
 
A box of slides, some photos, files and his deceased aunt's wallet piled up. Kuntz glanced at the gap in the roof that his uncle was yanked through. Then he looked out at the confusion of muddy detritus that included the smashed remains of his own home as well.
 
"When you look at it you just kind of go in shock and you kind of go numb," Kuntz said.
 
Gail Moffett, a retired firefighter who lives in Oso and works at the hardware store in Arlington, said she knows about 25 people who are missing. Among them, Moffett said, were entire families, including people with young children.
 
Moffett said some of the people who are missing were working in the area Saturday morning.
 
"There's so much pain going on in the community right now," she said.
 
Darlene Elrod stood above the wreckage, scratching her head and just looking and staring in disbelief as she tried to orient herself and point out an entire neighborhood.
 
"It's gone," she said.
Published in National News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governor Jay Nixon says the incentive package Missouri offered Boeing showed the state is "ready to compete" in the global economy.

His statement came early Saturday morning, just after Boeing announced its new 777X airplane will be built in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. Boeing production workers agreed to concede some benefits in order for that to happen.

Nixon thanked the General Assembly, community colleges and local business and labor partners for the "nationally-recognized proposal," which had authorized up to $1.7 billion in tax incentives over two decades.

He also said that Boeing's decision last month to shift some research positions to Missouri is "proof positive" that the state is a "top destination for high-tech jobs and investment."

Published in Local News

   WASHINGTON (AP) — Renewed questions about the economy's health and uncertainty surrounding the government's budget fight will likely lead the Federal Reserve on Wednesday to maintain the pace of the stimulus it's supplying to the economy.

   That expectation marks a reversal from just six weeks ago, when almost everyone expected the Fed to start trimming its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. The bond buying is intended to keep long-term interest rates low to help the economy rebound from the Great Recession.

   The Fed is to announce its decision in a statement after a two-day policy meeting.

   The central bank surprised investors and economists at its last meeting in September when it chose not to reduce its bond buying. Since then, a 16-day partial government shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter. And a batch of tepid economic data pointed to a still-subpar economy.

   Now, few think the Fed will reduce its stimulus any time soon. Many analysts now predict the Fed will maintain the pace of its bond purchases into next year.

   "I think March is now the earliest that any reduction in bond purchases will happen," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

   By then, Fed members expect to have seen several months of stronger job growth. They also expect Congress to have resolved its budget impasse.

   If the Fed does start slowing its stimulus in March, it will have left its policy unchanged not just this week but also at its next meeting in December and at its subsequent meeting in late January.

   The January meeting will be the last for Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is stepping down after eight years. President Barack Obama has chosen Vice Chair Janet Yellen to succeed Bernanke.

   Assuming that Yellen is confirmed by the Senate, her first meeting as chairman will be in March. Many economists think no major policy changes will occur before a new chairman takes over.

   Congress' budget fight has clouded the Fed's timetable. Though the government reopened Oct. 17 and a threatened default on its debt was averted, Congress adopted only temporary fixes. More deadlines and possible economic disruptions lie ahead.

   A House-Senate conference committee is working toward a budget accord. But wide differences separate Democrats and Republicans on spending and taxes. Without a deal by Jan. 15, another shutdown is possible. Congress must also raise the government's debt ceiling after Feb. 7. If not, a market-rattling default will remain a threat.

   The standoff has led economists to trim their forecasts for economic growth in the October-December quarter. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence dropped to 71.2 in October, the lowest level since April. The decline was attributed, in part, to the government shutdown.

   Employers added just 148,000 jobs in September, a steep slowdown from August. And temporary layoffs during the shutdown are expected to depress October's job gain.

   In June, when Bernanke suggested that the Fed could reduce its bond buying by year's end, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 560 points in two days. Many investors feared that the Fed might remove its support prematurely and derail an already subpar recovery from the recession.

   Interest rates rose, too. The increase particularly in mortgage rates, before the Fed had even begun to change policy, alarmed the central bank. Higher mortgage rates could dampen the gains in housing, which has been a rare bright spot for the economy.

   Given the panic among investors when Bernanke raised the prospect that the Fed would slow its bond purchases, analysts think any pullback will be very gradual.

   "The one thing Janet Yellen will not want to do is start her term by making a mistake," said Brian Bethune, an economics professor at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. "She will be extremely cautious and will try to signal that the Fed is starting to back off its bond purchases without causing the kinds of effects we saw in the summer."

   This week's meeting is the first since Obama announced Oct. 9 his choice of Yellen to be chairman. David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors and the author of several books on the Fed, said her status could change the dynamics.

   "Bernanke is essentially a lame duck, and Yellen has not yet taken over," Jones said. "It will make the Fed more cautious."

   Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said he will oppose Yellen's nomination unless the Senate votes on a bill he's sponsoring to subject the Fed's rate decisions to review by the Government Accountability Office.

   Yellen is still expected to win Senate confirmation, but a vote by the full Senate may not come until January. The Senate Banking Committee is considering holding a hearing on the nomination Nov. 14.

   Once the Fed starts trimming its bond purchases, economists foresee reductions of $10 billion to $20 billion a month as long as the economy improves consistently. Some analysts think the Fed could finish its purchases by the end of 2014.

   "But if something goes wrong, then they will stop or at least slow down the reductions," said David Wyss, a former chief economist at Standard & Poor's and now an economics professor at Brown University.

Published in National News

   Mount Vernon, WA (ABC) - Three people were sent to the hospital after a portion of an Interstate 5 highway bridge in Mount Vernon, Wash., collapsed Thursday, dumping three vehicles into the water.

   Two people rescued from the water were suffering from hypothermia, police said. Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, Wash., was expecting two patients taken from the accident, according to Kari Ranten, a spokeswoman. She believed the third patient was transported to another hospital.

   Officials were looking into reports of an over-sized load "immediately" causing the collapse, said Travis Phelps of the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol.

   "We're looking at the cause being an over-sized, over-height vehicle, striking critical portions of this bridge, causing it to collapse," he said.

   The National Transportation Safety Board said they will send a team to investigate the collapse.

   The collapse occurred on the portion of Interstate 5 over the Skagit River, about two hours north of Seattle.

   "N/B and S/B lanes of I-5 Skagit River Bridge collapsed," Washington State Trooper Mark Francis posted on Twitter. "People and cars in water."

   The collapse occurred around 7 p.m. local time and the portion of the bridge that collapsed was four lanes wide, The Associated Press reported. The vehicles plunged about 40 feet from the bridge into the river and that set off a massive rescue operation.

   A damaged red car and a damaged pickup truck were visible in the water. Helicopter footage from ABC News affiliate KOMO-TV showed several rescue boats in the Skagit River with several ambulances waiting on the shore.

   Xavier Grospe, 62, who lives near the river, told The Associated Press he could see three cars partially submerged in the water with what appeared to be one person per vehicle, with drivers on top of vehicles or sitting on open window openings.

   "It doesn't look like anybody's in danger right now," Grospe said.

   The bridge was built in 1955, according to the AP, citing federal records.

   Clean up efforts will take several days to weeks, according to Phelps. The bridge sees 77,000 cars per day, and Phelps said they are expecting significant congestion until the bridge is fixed.

   "We inspect our bridge every two years. We're not going to let anybody drive on a bridge that is deemed unsafe," Phelps said.

   The bridge was last inspected in November 2012 and deemed safe, Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Treece told ABC News.

Published in National News

   FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (AP) — Police say five people are dead in a shooting at an apartment complex south of Seattle, including a suspect who was shot by officers responding to the chaotic scene.

   Federal Way police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock says officers responded to a 9:30 p.m. Sunday emergency call in Federal Way of shots being fired.

   Arriving police spotted two injured men on the ground in a parking lot and one of them reached for a gun as the officers moved in to assist them.

   Schrock says officers then opened fire. The man was killed but it wasn't immediately clear if it was from police gunfire.

   The other man one the ground and another man in the parking lot were found dead.

   In a search of the complex, police found yet another man dead in one apartment and a slain woman in another.

   There was no immediate word what set off the gunfire.

Published in National News
JERUSALEM (AP) — President Barack Obama is set to plunge into the turbulent Middle East on a mission aimed primarily at assuring America's top ally in the region and its friends back home that it will not be forsaken amid bitter domestic political squabbles and budget crises in Washington.

Obama arrives today in Israel for his first visit to the country — and only his second to the Middle East, outside of a quick jaunt to Iraq — since taking office.

He will also be making his first trips as president to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan this week. But on an itinerary laden more with symbolism than substance, an Israel that is increasingly wary of developments in Syria and Iran will be the main focus of his attention.
Published in National News

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