- One home destroyed and 33 other properties isolated or threatened
- Landslide broke across 500 yards on cliff side and 600 yards to the water
- Residents reported hearing a noise ‘like thunder’ at 4 a.m. Wednesday
- Officials do not know what caused the slide as there has not been rain
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 14:32 EST, 27 March 2013
Residents of a small island in Washington state are coming to grips with the early morning landslide that shocked their community and destroyed at least one home while endangering more than 30 others.
‘I heard something loud, looked out my window and noticed I didn’t have any trees in the front yard anymore,’ said Bret Holmes, whose home was on the edge of the cliff.
He told the News Times that he has been losing ground at his property all morning; there was previously more than 30 feet of land to the bluff’s edge but now there is just 15 feet.
Surveying the damage: Geologist Terry Swanson looks at the edge of the cliff made by the landslide on Whidbey Island, Washington today
Damage: The landslide that damaged 17 homes visibly disrupted the shoreline on Whidbey Island in Washington
He said the land started to give way after he heard what he described as ‘a sonic boom’.
One house has been destroyed and 33 others are isolated or threatened after a 500-foot-wide landslide wiped out the ground along the coast of an island off Washington state.
Residents in Coupeville on Whidbey Island reported hearing a noise that sounded like rumbling thunder just after 4 a.m. on Wednesday as the land began to give way.
Harrowing: The sudden natural damage happened at around 4am on Wednesday
Wrecked: Authorities have now forced many other nearby residents out for fear that it will spread
As hundreds of feet of earth slid from the edge of the island’s bluff, one house was knocked off its foundation and a road was destroyed, which left 16 homes isolated.
Another 17 homes on an uphill road are also threatened by the mudslide, which authorities have warned is still moving. It was within 10 feet of a home late on Wednesday morning.
‘It’s possible more homes could be lost. We’re trying to ensure the safety and awareness of people,’ Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin. ‘There’s not anything we can do to stop the movement of the ground.’
Dream homes ruined: Many of the homes are summer cabins or weekend getaways and were unoccupied. Some are larger, upscale properties and others are more modest dwellings
Analysis: Authorities are still investigating the landslide but believe it was caused by stored moisture in the mud
On the brink: Concerned residents get dangerously close to the edge
Displaced: This is the home that was most dramatically displaced, and it will be difficult to get any parts of it back
Sounding the alarm: Residents that heard the slide about eight miles south of Coupeville described it as sounding like thunder
Officials said the slide broke across 400 to 500 yards on the hillside and downhill 600 or 700 yards to the water.
‘I have no feelings whatsoever. I’m totally numb,’ resident Delia Curt told local KOMO News, though it is unclear if her current home or a home that she wanted to own was threatened by the landslide.
Authorities said no one was hurt, but that a resident in the destroyed home had a pre-existing medical condition and was taken to the local hospital.
Many of the homes are summer cabins or weekend getaways and were unoccupied. Some are larger, upscale properties and others are more modest dwellings.
Officials warned that the ground is continuing to slide and the area will be isolated for the ‘foreseeable future’.
Devastating: At least 17 homes have been evacuated on Whidbey Island following a massive landslide
Fears: Authorities warned the land is still moving and some homes are just feet from the edge of the cliff
Mysterious: Authorities are still not certain what sparked the landslide as there was no overnight rain
‘It’s massive. I wouldn’t even put a description on it,’ Chad Michael, assistant chief of Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, told the Whidbey News Times.
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said he did not know what sparked the massive slide, as there had been no rain before the land began to give way. But the area has been prone to slides in the past.
‘It must have just been moisture in the ground that accumulated,’ he told KOMO.
The News Times noted that the affected area looked at least the size of two football fields.
Teetering: A cliff is seen next to a yard following a landslide on Whidbey Island, Washington
Concerns: One house has been completely destroyed and officials warned more could be wiped out
DANGER UNDERGROUND: WHAT CAUSES A LANDSLIDE?
Landslides can be triggered by gradual processes such as weathering, or by external factors including:
- Weakening a slope by stream erosion, wave action, glaciers
- Human activity, such as road building, can also contribute to weakening the hillside
- Intense or prolonged rainfall or rapid snowmelt
- Shocks or vibrations caused by earthquakes or construction
Residents continue to be evacuated and a relief center for the dozen of residents displaced by the landslide has been set up at a nearby community center.
Three people had to be evacuated on an all terrain vehicle and ten people had to be taken out by boat, officials said.
Those living in threatened homes could be seen walking to the edge of the cliff this morning to see just how close to the edge their properties were teetering.
Ahead of them was a massive drop strewn with mud and debris, as well as downed trees and the remnants of a coastal home.
A geotechnical engineer will arrive at the site this afternoon, which will give residents more of an idea of when they can return to their homes, officials said.
Location: The landslide occurred at Whidbey Island, which is off the coast of Washington State, on Wednesday
Huge landslide destroys homes and threatens others in Washington…
Destruction: One home was knocked off its foundation and swept hundreds of yards down the hillside
Debris: The home sits damaged after the landslide, which occurred early on Wednesday morning
Swamped: A structure is seen amid a landslide, which broke around 500 ft across a hillside on Whidbey
‘The road’s been cut off, the power’s been cut off and the water’s been cut off to the homes on the beach,’ Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson visited the area to see the devastation.
‘It’s a tragic loss for these property owners and this community,’ she told the News Times. ‘We just need to pull together.’
Wiped out: Other helicopter images show the swathe of land that has been affected by the slife