He also said that in the coming weeks and months, state officials will examine whether risk assessment for landslides is adequate. Questions have been raised after it was learned there were reports showing the potential for catastrophic landslides in the rural area 55 miles northeast of Seattle.
"These are very important questions about geological risks in our state, and I think this incident has raised the need to ask that question," Inslee told The Associated Press. "It's going to be an extensive review... it needs to be done."
Inslee flew from Olympia to Everett on Wednesday, making a stop first at the Snohomish County emergency operations center, before continuing to Arlington.
After boarding the flight to Everett, Inslee called some relatives of those killed in Saturday's massive slide near the small town of Oso to offer his condolences.
"It's one of those heartbreaking situations," he said.
President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration for Washington on Monday, ordering federal aid to supplement the state response. The declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to mobilize equipment and resources to help ease the impact of the emergency.
Inslee said he last spoke with the president on Tuesday and is hopeful that more federal assistance is forthcoming. He noted one aspect of a federal disaster declaration requires a threshold of damage to infrastructure, and said he's not certain whether the state will meet that. Another aspect of federal aid that deals with individual losses in communities was more likely, the governor said.
"We think that ought to be accessible to individuals in this community," Inslee said. "We think we will be reasonably successful in helping those families with federal assistance."
State authorities are exploring ways they can help with housing assistance for those made homeless, Inslee said, adding the Department of Licensing and the Department of Health are helping people replace vital documents.
While the community's grief will compound as more bodies are found, the governor said he has been struck by people's resilience.
"I think people would be inspired by the humanity and the compassion and sense of community that has been demonstrated," he said. "There's a mountain of grief here, but there's also inspiration, and that's people caring for each other."