landslides | KUOW News and Information

landslides

Landslide retention walls being constructed along tracks near Mukilteo in 2015.
Courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation

After a lot of rain, you might be used to hearing us say something like this on the air: “Amtrak has canceled passenger train service from Seattle to Everett for the next two days …”

Landslides on railroad tracks along Puget Sound frequently delay trains. That made KUOW listener April Isenhower curious: Why were train tracks between Seattle and Everett built in areas prone to mudslides?

The emergency seems to be over for now at the slow-moving landslide at Rattlesnake Ridge near Yakima, Washington. The state has taken down the warning signs and lights on the highway below.

But for some, the drive is still nerve wracking. They’ve coined a phrase for driving quickly past the slide: “Shooting the Gap.”

Starting Thursday, residents who were evacuated for the Rattlesnake Ridge landslide near Yakima, Washington, can go back home. That’s after a new study by a geology firm hired by the state said the slide could take years—or even decades—to come down.

The landslide on Rattlesnake Ridge near Yakima, Washington, is likely going to be a slow one—it could take years or decades to fully come down. That’s the upshot of a new independent geology report commissioned by the state.

The Yakama Nation is asking Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency for the Rattlesnake Ridge landslide. It’s a steep slope outside of Yakima that is moving slowly and clings above a small community, a railroad corridor, Interstate 82 and the Yakima River.

The tribes have a lot to lose if it goes down.

The landslide on Rattlesnake Ridge outside of Yakima, Washington, is turning into a slow grind. The land is moving at a constant 1.7 feet per week.

Updated 1:40 p.m. ET on Sunday

The death toll rose to 20 on Sunday as authorities ramped up search and rescue efforts for those missing in the deadly mudslides in Santa Barbara, Calif. And hope of finding the four remaining missing persons alive, five days after storm devastated the region, is vanishing.

Department of Natural Resources estimates that the landslide volume is approximately 4 million cubic yards and covers an area of about 20 acres.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Bill Radke talks to David Montgomery, professor of geology at the University of Washington, about the crack in Rattlesnake Ridge and what geologist and state officials are looking for as they monitor the slow moving slide.  

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

Thirteen people have reportedly died as heavy rain drenched fire-ravaged Santa Barbara County in Southern California on Tuesday. Thousands of people are evacuating from their homes because the rain is raising the risk of mudslides on hills stripped by recent wildfires.

Nearly 70 people live on a sliver of land wedged between Interstate 82 and Rattlesnake Ridge in central Washington state. A massive chunk of the ridge is moving, and cracking, and geologists say it will likely cause a landslide.

Emergency meetings are underway to discuss the threat of a possible landslide near Yakima, Washington. Dozens of federal, state, county and tribal officials are trying to work out a plan as this threat looms. 


Officials in Yakima County, Washington, are strongly urging residents living below a shifting mountainside near Union Gap to evacuate. 



A huge crack that appeared on Rattlesnake Ridge last year is beginning to widen.

As heavy rains move into the Northwest, geologists are watching the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. This summer’s wildfires have made slopes that are already prone to landslides even more treacherous.

Geologists for the state of Oregon are warning of the risk of major landslides in parts of the Columbia River Gorge that were hit by wildfires this year.

A new report released Thursday focuses on areas of the Gorge that are highly susceptible to landslides—which also happen to overlap with some of the areas hit by this year’s wildfires.

Ron Thompson, whose home was destroyed in the Oso, Washington, slide, had a full workshop. He continues to carve signs, including these at his new home behind the Oso fire station.
KCTS Photo/Aileen Imperial

Jeannie Yandel speaks with president of the Darrington Historical Society, Scott Morris, who has partnered with a group of students from University of Washington's Master of Library and Information Science program to collect and preserve historical documents and histories from the Oso landslide. 

New Oso Analysis Sheds Light On Landslide Risks

Dec 23, 2015
A massive mudslide on March 22, 2014 in Oso, Washington killed 43. Pictured here is the mudflow taken on Monday, March 24, 2014.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Big landslides like the one in Oso that killed 43 people last year are fairly common in Stillaguamish Valley. According to a new study from the University of Washington, one occurs about every 140 years. 

David Hyde talks to UW geology professor David Montgomery about what the research means for politicians and where people decide to build and live.

Grays Harbor County commissioners approved an emergency declaration for their coastal county Tuesday in the wake of flooding and landslides.

The Carlton Complex fires burned more than 255,000 acres in Washington’s Methow Valley past summer. There are thousands of fire-scrubbed hillsides and slopes that threaten to become torrents of mud running down in nearly every direction.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

You might not think there's much of a connection between the deadly Oso landslide and this month's racially charged unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

The National Weather Service says slow-moving storms creeping through Central Washington could bring another round of mudslides this evening.

John Ryan / KUOW

An independent commission will delve into the deadliest landslide in Washington history. The commission will seek statewide lessons from the Oso landslide, land use in the Oso area before the slide and the emergency response in the days and weeks afterward.

How to keep a county that is still reeling from a deadly landslide safe from future landslides?

Environmentalists' and developers' conflicting answers to that question will get a full airing on Wednesday at the Snohomish County Council in Everett. The council is holding a special hearing on ways to reduce the chances of new homes being put in where landslides might take them out.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Barbara Ingram furrows her brow as she peers into a patch of woods up the road from her house. Developers have had their eyes on this place, too.

State Officials Discuss Regulations To Prevent Future Landslides

May 12, 2014
Flickr Photo/brewbooks (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher talks to Peter Goldmark, commissioner of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, about logging regulations in landslide-prone areas. The DNR and other state officials met in Olympia to discuss the possibility of even more regulations down the line.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington State officials announced new restrictions on logging near landslide zones Friday afternoon.

The change in policy comes six weeks after a landslide near the town of Oso killed at least 41 people.

KUOW Photo/Daniel Berman

Aid agencies are reducing their presence in Oso and Darrington, a month and a half after a landslide hit the small community there, killing at least 41.

King County

King County is seeking federal funding for an updated map of landslide hazards, and is considering the possibility of using this map to provide the public information about buildings at risk.

Courtesy Washington State Department of Ecology

Marcie Sillman talks to John Starbard, director of King County's Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, about the county’s effort to map out areas that might be prone to landslides and earthquakes.

How Drones Quietly Mapped Oso Landslide Area

May 5, 2014
Tamara Palmer

As Washington Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill in April that would have regulated drone use statewide, a consortium of disaster recovery specialists quietly negotiated the use of drones to make a 3-D model of the Oso mudslide.

Inslee vetoed the Legislature's bill on April 4 citing privacy and transparency concerns that he said were not adequately addressed, but he said he would still let drones fly in emergencies.

Flickr Photo/Diana Lofflin, DNR (CC BY-NC-ND)

It's not unusual for elected officials to cozy up to people with money. Yet Washington Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark's relationship with the timber industry he regulates has changed dramatically since the two-term Democrat first ran for the office six years ago.

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