WM employees help Wash. community devastated by mudslide
Worst natural disaster ever in the state affected WM residential customers

Oso, Wash.  On Saturday, March 22, Oso, Wash., a small close-knit town about an hour and a half from Seattle, was hit with a massive mudslide and flood. The slide took out the entire community —a community serviced by Waste Management. More than 45  bodies were recovered from the site and 35 homes were destroyed.

“Many of us felt connected to the community, and a WM Recycling Driver, Frank West, from our Marysville district wanted to help,” said Robin Freedman, senior manager of communications for the Pacific Northwest Area. “Frank lives about seven miles from the slide area so he took two days off from work to support recovery efforts. He has a reputation for being a wonderful man, but now he is known as a local hero to his community.”

Freedman also volunteered her services. She spent a week at the Snohomish County Emergency Operations Center, managing media requests from all over the world. She crafted press releases, coordinated other communications staff and met fellow communicators from around the state.

“In a matter of seconds, the mudslide crossed a rural highway and obliterated a neighborhood on a Saturday morning,” Freedman said. “The hillside collapsed, roared across a river at breakneck speed, snapped trees like matchsticks and swallowed the Steelhead Drive neighborhood in a tsunami of dirt, trees and debris. More than 20 homes were our customers. We supplied containers in support of the 500 volunteers/paid workers in the rescue effort.”

WM’s corporate community affairs recently sent a check for $5,000 to the community relief fund.  Crews worked around the clock for a month to find the bodies and then to clear the roadway, which is a major route to and from a city. The new completed road is scheduled to open this fall.

“They have halted any new building so the victims and families will never live there again. It was a very beautiful place,” Freedman said.

PHOTO: Frank West, WM recycling driver and nearby resident, donated his time to assist in recovery efforts following the Oso mudslide. In the worst natural disaster Wash. has ever seen, what was once a neighborhood of 35 homes and streets is now buried by dirt and debris.