Secretary Jewell, Congresswoman DelBene Lead Discussions on Using Science to Build More Resilient Communities

Policymakers join panel of scientific experts in Seattle following tour of Oso landslide site and Great ShakeOut earthquake drill

Last edited 09/29/2021

Date: October 15, 2015
Contact: Jessica Kershaw,

SEATTLE – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell joined U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene today to discuss how scientific research can help communities in the Pacific Northwest become more resilient and reduce the risk of damage from natural disasters and severe storms.

Jewell and DelBene toured the community of Oso, Wash., which was tragically struck by a landslide in 2014, and participated in the global Great ShakeOut earthquake drill at the Oso Fire Department with students from Darrington Middle School – both events in advance of a climate change and natural disasters roundtable held this afternoon with community leaders and scientists in Seattle. 

“As climate change makes storms more severe, sound science provided by the U.S. Geological Survey becomes even more critical to help communities better predict and respond to natural disasters,” said Secretary Jewell. “Scientists are helping citizens in the Pacific Northwest and nationwide cope with the impacts of sea level rise, severe wildfires, drought and other natural hazards – all exacerbated by climate change.”

“We’re fortunate to have someone in the administration like Secretary Jewell, who knows the Pacific Northwest and its unique natural landscape so well. It was an honor to take her to a place that will always be near and dear to my heart – the community of Oso,” DelBene said. “In a matter of seconds, lives changed on March 22, 2014. A lot of lessons were learned after that tragic landslide, including that lawmakers need to do more to ensure we fund resources and research efforts to prevent future natural disasters from becoming national tragedies, which is why I’m working on legislation to do just that.” 

The tour of the Oso site revealed details of the tragic landslide that killed 43 people in March 2014. USGS scientists described how the agency helped first responders understand the conditions to assist in locating victims and provided scientific monitoring in the wake of the landslide. 

More than one year later, the agency continues to study the reasons why landslides take shape and work with the National Weather Service on a warning system to alert communities that are potentially in harm’s way.

At the fire station in Oso, Secretary Jewell and Congresswoman DelBene met with Oso Fire Chief Willie Harper, first responders, and students. They participated in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill, which has become the world’s largest public safety drill, with more than 20 million people expected to participate this year. 

The drill started in Southern California in 2008 and was based on the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. The drill is practice for how to protect yourself and do your part to help prevent a major earthquake from becoming a catastrophe.

Jewell and DelBene held a roundtable discussion this afternoon with scientists and climate change experts on building resilient communities to prepare for natural disasters and geologic hazards. Roundtable participants included moderator Dr. Rich Ferrero, NW regional director of USGS; Chief Shawn Yanity of the Stillaguamish Tribe; Dr. Craig Weaver, USGS expert on Pacific Northwest seismic issues; Dr. Cindi Barton, center director, USGS Washington Water Science Center; Sue Phillips, acting USGS fire science coordinator; Dr. Dave Norman, state geologist; and Dan Ritzman, from the Sierra Club. 

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