Whidbey bluff collapses on Admiralty Inlet, 22 homes evacuated; soil still reportedly unstable

  • By Doug Esser The Associated Press
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2013 3:55pm
  • News
In this aerial photo

In this aerial photo

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 today.

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 this afternoon.

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.

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