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Robin Youngblood, mudslide survivor, tells of 'wave' of mud hitting home

DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- The roar of the hillside collapsing was so loud that Robin Youngblood thought an airplane had crashed. But when she looked out the window of her mobile home, all she saw was a wall of mud racing across her beloved river valley toward her home.

"All I could say was `Oh my God' and then it hit us," Youngblood told The Associated Press. "Like a wave hit our mobile home and pushed it up. It tore the roof off of the house. When we stopped moving we were full of mud everywhere. Two minutes was the whole thing."

Youngblood is among the few survivors of the massive, deadly mudslide that destroyed a rural community northeast of Seattle last weekend. Five days after the destruction, Youngblood visited Darrington to see her cousin and follow up on the process of federal aid.

"It's really hard to see all of this. It's really hard to know that I can't go home. Several times this week I've said `I need to go home now.' Then I realize, there's no home to go to," she said Thursday.

In the early 1900s, Youngblood's family helped establish the community of Darrington. They were Cherokee who had been forced to move to Oklahoma and Arkansas, but decided to move to Washington. Youngblood's great grandmother is buried a few blocks from the Darrington town center, she said.

Two years ago, Youngblood was living in Hawaii, but her children asked her to move home. She found a mobile home on 6 acres; three of those were wetland by the river. The other three, she said, were above the historic flood line.

She had valley around her home with eagles, bear, fox, salmon and coyotes. Out of her home, she ran a church anchored on her Native American heritage.

All of that was destroyed in seconds on Saturday.

The wall of mud hit her home, engulfing her and a student of her church. Youngblood was able to swim to the surface and clung to the unattached roof before more water came in - a stroke of luck that probably helped save her life because she was not trapped. Her student, a Dutch national named Jetty Dooper, also surfaced.

"We cleaned everything from our noses and mouth so we could breathe," Youngblood said.

While they were clinging to the roof, a couple of neighboring kids ran toward the mud, but Youngblood yelled at them not to step into it and call 911.

Covered in freezing mud, Youngblood and Dooper waited. While waiting for help, she saw a something of hers floating toward them, a painting called "Wolf Vision."

About an hour later a helicopter arrived and crews extracted Youngblood and Dooper. Youngblood made sure the painting was also retrieved. It's the only item she has from her home.

Days after the mud, Youngblood has developed a cough from the hypothermia. But otherwise, she escaped largely unscathed.

"I'm grateful to be alive. I have no idea how I came out without being crushed from limb to limb," she said.

Dooper was deeply bruised but otherwise OK, Youngblood said

The Dutch national is on her way back to the Netherlands, according to the Seattle Consul P.P.M. Hageman.

Youngblood is hoping to see what remains of her home. She had family heirlooms in it, and is hoping some of those survived. But for now, her family is planning ahead. Her daughter is looking for another home, but it won't be in the valley.

"I don't think anybody is going to be able to go back to that valley for years and years," she said.

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potero1 March 28 2014 at 4:55 PM

Sometimes it takes a tragedy like this to see how truly blessed we are. We complain of not having enough money, food and other items, but there are others worse off than we are. I do not mean to sound selfish as this is not my intent. All I am saying is that we have become a selfish bunch of people not realizing the pain and destruction other people face on a daily basis. This tragedy along with the missing Malaysia plane reminds me of how blessed we are. My prayers and thoughts go out to the people of both tragedys. My God bless and help them in their time of need. p

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crystallocket March 28 2014 at 9:36 PM

People live where they want to live...Im sure it was a beautiful place and living was inexpensive for a reason.....now we know reason. This could have happened years from now when this lady was long gone... who knows whe catastrophie will happen.

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Dr. Cal Harris March 28 2014 at 5:43 PM

I am from the Rogue Valley in S. Oregon and shutter when I see folks loading the hill sides with these big homes. It isn't a question of when natural landslides will reshape these mountains and hills, it is just when. The people on the sides of the hill add weight to these slide areas and the folks that chose to build below will eventually experience what this area of Washington has.

The government can only do so much in identifying flood and slide areas. This is a great tragedy but certainly a predictable one. I am very sad for those that lost loved ones and their animals.

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1 reply
Dr. Cal Harris Dr. Cal Harris March 28 2014 at 5:43 PM

Sorry for the typo's.

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welcome Richard March 28 2014 at 5:23 PM

Robin is lucky. From what I heard that mudslide was quick. No getting out of the way.
Hopes and prayers for the lost and their families.

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1 reply
Amiee/Patrick welcome Richard March 28 2014 at 8:25 PM

Quick and 100% avoidable by not buying a home is an area that has had mudslides since 1949!

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skyshadow7 March 28 2014 at 6:27 PM

I'm not sure, but why are building permits allowed on these hillside locations? I heard on the news that many years ago the property owners were told they needed to leave as it was a matter of time before mudslides. I know once you're established in your home, you never want to leave. But it looks like something should have been done by local government. Maybe offer buyouts or condemn the properties due to danger? I'm not saying anyone should be forced out, but lives have been lost and taxpayer money spent attempting to locate victims. Very sad my heart goes out to these people.

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3 replies
drrobbiecarol March 28 2014 at 5:16 PM

I am always filled with empathy and sympathy when anyone is caught unaware in these natural tragedies. It must be an out-of-body experience to survive--feeling so grateful and at the same time knowing that friends and family around you did not make it. Life can change in just seconds. I am so sorry. I feel my prayer list grow along with my belief in Universal Intelligence (God) which heightens as I feel my own mortality. It every survivor sent out positive thoughts and prayers into the atmosphere, I believe a collective consciousness would rise above war, hate, and disasters. What we think and visualize ultimately becomes our reality. I know it's difficult to practice what we know intellectually, but let us continue to try with our hearts and spirit to be mindful of others, using the Golden Rule as the simplest standard to live by. Namaste, Carol E-B

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Amiee/Patrick March 28 2014 at 8:22 PM

This is the same woman that said she had no idea that homes could slide..REALLYY!!!! The news reported taht homes in this specifica area had experienced mudslides since 1949! In fact dozens of homes were destroyed in 1967. How in the world developers were allowed to continue to build in this area is beyond reasonable belief. The state, the county and the town were FULLY AWARE of the devastating situation and I believe no one could possibly move into a home there and not know. Realtors knew as well. Someone should be held accountable for these losses.

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Liebchken March 28 2014 at 8:45 PM

RUN,...don't walk out of that whole mountainside, never to return. Finish this horrendous task, and declare it a National holy, gravesite. But, never build or inhabit the lands of Darrington again. The Great Mother Earth has spoken.

And don't expect the greedy developers or County to protect you or keep you safe next time you assume it's safe to live there. They'll be smiling at you while they're lining their pockets with your money and your family's lives.

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eeverettm March 28 2014 at 9:40 PM

You have to really do your homework before settling somewhere, by questioning and listening to the old timers. You can learn something.

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TruthBeKnown March 29 2014 at 8:37 AM

You never eally know what is going to happen at anytime.
Florida has sink holes. The land we live on is only temporary.

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