TODAY   |  March 29, 2014

Heavy rains threaten recovery effort in Washington

It has been exactly one week since a massive and deadly mudslide hit a community in Washington, and rescue teams say they are still looking for survivors. With 90 people missing, officials concede the death toll could spike dramatically in the days ahead. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> search for victims of that massive mudslide in washington state . one week after it happened, searchers are putting in long and tiring hours and say they will not stop until the job is done and everyone who is missing is accounted for. miguel almaguer has been covering this since it happened. miguel , good morning.

>> reporter: lester, good morning. the official death toll is 17, but rescue teams have discovered another body. it's just yet to be identified. with 90 people missing, they do concede that death toll will rise dramatically in the days ahead. one week into their search, this is what rescue teams face on the ground, a debris field one square mile , the mud 40 feet deep in many places. it is difficult and dangerous work that could take five months to complete.

>> these come in up to waist deep in mud they've been going through. they've been digging through stuff. they've seen things that most people -- i mean, people shouldn't have to see.

>> reporter: little here is recognizable. and now, heavy rain and flash flooding this weekend could trigger another slide at any moment. crews so worried, they placed instruments in the ground to monitor the soil for movement. seth jeffords, a volunteer firefighter , has sifted through the dangerous conditions. he lost his wife and granddaughter.

>> i'm going to miss my wife and granddaughter. i love them so much.

>> reporter: with 49 homes destroyed, at least 11 were built since 2000 . a year after this report prepared for the u.s. army corps of engineers warned "the potential for a large catastrophic failure" here.

>> nobody warned anybody. we had no knowledge. we built -- we bought that place specifically because it was a quarter mile from the river and it was up on a bench above flood level. there is nothing that should have hurt us there.

>> reporter: with many here still in shock, this tight-knit community is mourning together. the first funeral for town librarian linda mcpherson will be held next week.

>> we're grieving for our loss, because she was such a wonderful sister. she was like a rock in our family.

>> reporter: today, 17 families share that loss, while so many others wait for word on loved ones still missing. at 10:37 a.m ., the time this mudslide hit, the governor has asked for a moment of silence to remember those affected. lester, they will stop searching at the search zone and then resume moments later. back to you.

>> all right, miguel , thanks very much.