Other News

Interesting news stories from around the Pacific Northwest.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KPLU

As the weeks go by after the deadly mudslide in Oso, the number of volunteers helping to clean up the muddy mess is dwindling. But there’s another team working on an invisible mess — the emotional one. They’re volunteer, emergency response chaplains. Long after the funerals are over and the debris has been disposed of, their work will continue. 

Steve Schertzinger, Owen Couch, and Suzanne and Ray Thompson were some of the first volunteers to arrive after the mudslide in Oso. The chaplains will likely be some of the last to leave. 

Since they retired as a nurse and a firefighter, Suzanne and Ray Thompson have bounced from disaster to disaster.

"Tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, ice storms," Ray Thompson recalled. "I've kind of lost count."

Florangela Davila

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of radio conversations between homeless youth. Voices will also be broadcast as part of the Kids@Risk coverage on Crosscut.com. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington State University will waive next year's tuition and fees for students who live near the site of the deadly March 22 mudslide in Snohomish County, school leaders announced this week.

The slide "was such an obvious tragedy for our state and for the folks in that area that the troops rallied early and discussions started about how WSU could help," said university spokesperson Kathy Barnard.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Searchers painstakingly combing through mud and debris have confirmed the deaths of 29 people, though more have been found than the official tally reflects. Twenty people are listed as missing.

Father Tim Sauer, pastor of Catholic churches in communities on either side of the slide, said the first funerals are expected within the next several days.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Tons of donated food has already poured into the tiny Snohomish County communities touched by the deadly March 22 mudslide, and not all of it's for humans.

Dozens of volunteers spent the weekend stocking up donated feed for critters as small as chickens and as large as cows at a makeshift animal shelter and food shelf at the Darrington Rodeo Grounds, just east of the slide area.

It's one of many ways community members are coping with the disaster, which hit the heart of the state's horse country. Members of the Darrington Horse Owner's Association started the effort to accommodate animals displaced by the slide.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

England’s health secretary has taken the unusual step of using a Seattle hospital to announce a major policy reform in his own country. The new patient safety policies are partly inspired by Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center.

Washington Health Benefits Exchange

Washington’s health exchange is wrestling with how to accommodate people who have had trouble signing up for insurance. The March 31 deadline has been looming for months, as officials urge people to get covered or face a fine.

But considering the well-known problems at the state and federal exchanges, officials figured some people will need an extension. The question is who gets it.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

One thing about the Affordable Care Act is that now we’re all expected to be informed consumers about buying insurance. If you’ve never done that, you might be surprised at all the jargon you’re supposed to know. And if you’ve waited until the last minute to enroll — most people have until March 31 to sign up and dodge the fine, it’s time to start cramming.

Rae Ellen Bichell / KPLU

Following a 108-day trip to Antarctica, Seattle-built icebreaker Polar Star returned to its homeport at the U.S. Coast Guard base in Elliott Bay Friday.

The vessel, with its 75,000 horsepower, cut a path for a tanker and cargo ship to deliver supplies to a U.S. research station ahead of the coming Antarctic winter. 

U.S. Department of Energy

The state of Washington has ordered the federal government to pump out a leaking double-shell tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The state says pumping must begin by Sept. 1.

Most Americans who still don’t have health insurance by March 31 could face a fine, and Washington’s health benefits exchange is hoping the looming deadline will help motivate people to enroll. But so far, the exchange is lagging behind its goals.

Massachusetts, which served as a template for the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to get insurance or pay a penalty, saw a huge rush just before the deadline. Exchange board member Phil Dyer says Washington needs a similar surge.

“Well, I feel like we’re behind the power curve. We’ve got a long way to go,” Dyer said. “Let’s wait and see if March gets us there, and then take a hard look at planning for Exchange 2.0.”

Alex Brandon / AP Photo

On this first day of spring, the seasonal outlook is calling for a warmer-than-average spring west of the Cascades, according to the National Weather Service.

The strongest signal to emerge from the Weather Service climate models foreshadows above-normal temperatures along the West Coast.

UMHealthSystem / Flickr

Washington’s Medicaid program saved more than $33 million last year, and a new report gives much of the credit to a big push to reduce emergency room visits.

ERs are a great place to treat real emergencies, but a very expensive place to do run-of-the-mill medical care. So the Health Care Authority, the agency that runs Medicaid, partnered with the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington State Medical Association and others to adopt seven best practices aimed at ensuring ERs are used for their intended purpose.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Two people were killed inside a news helicopter when it crashed outside the KOMO-TV studios near the Space Needle in Seattle, sending clouds of black smoke into the sky during the rush hour at 7:40 a.m. Tuesday.

In addition to the fatalities, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said a man managed to free himself from one of the burning cars at the accident scene. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment of serious burns. The man, who was initially listed in critical condition, was upgraded to serious condition Tuesday afternoon.

WSDOT

After six years on the job, the head of Washington State Ferries says he will step down on April 15.

David Moseley made his announcement Tuesday. His resignation comes as the nation’s largest ferry system continues to encounter choppy seas.

Peterson and Brothers / Museum of History and Industry, Seattle

The plan to dig a shaft 12 stories deep to fix Bertha, the Seattle tunnel boring machine, has been put on hold while archaeologists make sure crews won’t dig through important historical sites. 

On Thursday, workers started boring approximately 60 holes, each about as wide as a grapefruit, and digging as deep as 40 feet down through layers of Seattle's floor, which, at the moment, is also Bertha's ceiling. 

Collin Tong

Consider the twin cruelties of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease: On the one hand, caring for him or her is non-stop responsibility, stress and expense. On the other, you have to watch the person you love slip away, or even worse, become a disoriented or even hostile stranger.

Seattle journalist Collin Tong experienced the long ordeal starting when his beloved wife Linda was diagnosed with the early-onset variety at age 51. Tong has edited a book, composed of stories from 23 caregivers, called “Into the Storm: Journeys with Alzheimer’s.” And he shared with us a handful of the practical things he wishes he’d known before caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Elise Amendola / AP Photo

Drug overdoses, mostly from opiates, are the leading cause of accidental death in America. But there is an antidote, and it may soon be much more widely available on the Washington State University campus. 

For someone who overdoses on heroin or a prescription painkiller, a quick shot of naloxone could make the difference between life and death. In the past, this has meant an actual injection, which can be hard to administer for someone who isn’t trained, as well as carrying risks of blood-borne diseases.

Anna King

 

Grant County officials and Native Americans are patrolling round the clock to keep sacred and sensitive sites protected on miles of exposed Columbia River shoreline.

The drawdown of water behind the damaged Wanapum Dam and the nearby Rock Island dam has exposed lots of rocky shoals. But new-found bones are churning up old questions.

Oran Viriyincy

Seattle-area drivers are losing about $1,800 a year due to driving on poor roads, congestion delays and traffic crashes on roads that are unsafe, according to a new report by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group. The same report says drivers are wasting 48 hours a year stuck in traffic.

The report highlighted the large number of roads in the city and the state in need of repair, and the costs to drivers from things like wear and tear on their vehicles.

Taylor Winkel

Across the country, more than one million kids may not know where they’re going to sleep tonight. It could be in a car, on a friend’s couch, in a homeless shelter, or even on the street.

In Washington state alone, there are more than 30,000 homeless children. And for these kids, getting their homework done is the least of their problems. Now a unique program out of Tacoma is trying to help those kids do better in school, one family at a time.

WSDOT

State highway engineers will shut down a stretch of the Alaskan Way viaduct later this month to take a closer look at cracks found on the roadway.

What workers found during a routine inspection of the viaduct on March 1 isn’t that unusual, says Tom Baker, an engineer with the Washington state Department of Transportation.

They drink. They dance. And they love the Sasquatch Music Festival, an annual phenomenon in Washington state. But will young people sign up for insurance on the state's health exchange?

The folks who run the exchange were sponsors of the music festival's launch party last month, reminding people they have until the end of March to pick health insurance and see if they qualify for help paying for it.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

More than one in five Washington adults are at high risk of falling prey to online scams, according to new research funded by the AARP.

Few would be surprised to hear that clicking on pop-up ads or opening emails from unfamiliar sources increases your risk of getting ripped off. But the AARP report, based on a survey of more than 11,000 adults nationwide, also identified some less obvious risk factors.

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission is getting into the fashion merchandising business with the launch of a clothing line called OLU, or Others Like Us.

The line will include T-shirts, a hoodie, a baseball cap and a beanie featuring a logo that looks like a face. One T-shirt design will also feature a photo of a homeless person.

Washington’s health insurance exchange has ramped up its customer-service call center in anticipation of a big surge in enrollments this month. But callers should still hunker down for a long wait.

The Spokane-based call center got an average of more than 40,000 calls a day in January, but managed to answer just 15 percent of them. Of the rest, the vast majority got a message telling them to give up and call back later, while others hung up due to wait times that averaged 40 minutes or more.

John Froschauer

There comes a time in people’s lives when an event changes everything in their world.

For Jerry White, that moment came when he was 20, while studying abroad in Israel. That’s when he lost his leg.

White was hiking with friends when he stepped on a landmine.

“Suddenly, I was hiking, and boom! I have no foot,” he said.

Matthew Mead / AP Photo

Northwest potato growers say they've been snubbed in a federal nutrition program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday finalized changes to the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC. And it will cover all fruits and veggies — all but potatoes.

Gabriel Spitzer

Officials overseeing Harborview Medical Center in Seattle have told staff by email they will not be closing or relocating the hospital’s clinics.

The fates of at least three primary care clinics on the main Harborview campus had been up in the air. Officials with UW Medicine, which runs the hospital, had said all along no decisions had been made. But staffers said they’d been told the clinics could close or move as early as this summer.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo

The latest figures on who's signing up under the federal health care law tell a surprising story about one of the most conservative states in the country.

Even though Idaho politicians regularly condemn Obamacare, Idahoans are signing up at one of the highest per capita rates in the country, second only to Vermont.

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