Authorities keep watch on unstable Whidbey Island bluff near homes [**GALLERY**]
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Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
The scene, including destroyed house at lower right, on Whidbey Island overlooking Admiralty Inlet on Wednesday.
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Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
Looking straight down on the backyard of one of the homes now precariously close to the bluff's edge.
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Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
Two of the homes just south of Keystone that have lost a significant portion of their backyards.
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Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
A bulge in the coastline south of Keystone on Whidbey Island shows Wednesday morning's massive slide. Admiralty Inlet is at right; directly across the Inlet is Marrowstone Island.
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Ted S. Warren/Peninsula Daily News
Looking straight down on the house knocked off its foundation and destroyed by Wednesday's slide.
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Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
In this aerial photo, homes sit near the edge of a huge bluff collapse on Admiralty Inlet near the Keystone ferry landing on Whidbey Island on Wednesday afternoon.
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Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times/Sound Publishing
What the slide looks like from one of the threatened backyards.
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Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times/Sound Publishing
Residents of the Ledgewood area of Whidbey Island, just south of Keystone, are dwarfed by the massive erosion caused by Wednesday's slide. The site is across Admiralty Inlet from Port Townsend, in distant background.
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Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times/Sound Publishing
Bret Holmes woke up Wednesday to the sound of a massive landslide that devastated the Whidbey Island community of Ledgewood at about 4 a.m. Holmes has lost more than 30 feet of his yard, and his house is now under threat as the bluff is still sloughing off.

By Doug Esser
The Associated Press

COUPEVILLE — Residents of a hillside overlooking Admiralty Inlet heard the thunder of a landslide that knocked one home off its foundation and isolated or threatened more than two dozen others on Whidbey Island early Wednesday.

At least 22 homes have been evacuated and more are threatened, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said, adding that the soil in the area still appeared unstable as dusk fell Wednesday.

A man who escaped from the damaged home was evacuated by rescuers in an all-terrain vehicle, Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin said.

Many of the homes — located directly across the Inlet from Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island — are summer cabins or weekend getaways and were unoccupied.

Eleven people from 16 homes along a road close to the water were evacuated by boat because the road was blocked by the landslide, he said.

An additional 20 to 25 people were evacuated from 17 homes along a road higher up the hill that is being undermined by the slide.

Land is falling away just 10 feet from one home.

No one was injured when the slide broke loose about 4 a.m. in the Ledgewood community just south of the Keystone dock for the ferry from Port Townsend.

One person was taken to a hospital with a condition unrelated to the slide.

The cause of the slide is unknown.

Residents who heard the slide described it as sounding like thunder.

“It was a mix of rumbling and snapping trees,” Hartin said. “We were hearing the same thing when we arrived.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the slide still showed signs of movement, Hartin said.

“It's possible more homes could be lost. We're trying to ensure the safety and awareness of people,” Hartin said.

“There's not anything we can do to stop the movement of the ground.”

The slide area extends about 400 to 500 yards across the hillside and down 600 or 700 yards to the water, Hartin said.

A geotechnical expert was being brought in to assess the slide and the danger to homes.

If the bluff stabilizes, some people might be allowed to return. But others have homes that are now unreachable.

________

KOMO News, the PDN's Seattle news partner, contributed to this report.

Last modified: March 27. 2013 6:54PM
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