1 home lost in Whidbey Island, Wash., landslide; 33 more homes isolated or threatened

A landslide that gave way with a sound like thunder severely damaged one home and isolated or threatened 33 more in the community of Ledgewood, about eight miles south of Coupeville and 50 miles north of Seattle on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.

No one was injured in the slide that broke about 4 a.m. Wednesday, said Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin. One person from the home that was knocked off its foundation was evacuated by an all-terrain vehicle. About 10 more residents have been evacuated by boat. Hartin didn't have a total number of people evacuated. One person was taken to a hospital with a condition unrelated to the slide.

The slide broke across 400 to 500 yards on a hillside and downhill 600 or 700 yards to the water, Hartin said.

The slide took out a road, Driftwood Way, which is closest to the water, isolating 16 homes. Another 17 homes on an uphill road, Fircrest Avenue, are threatened by the mudslide which continued to move. It was within 10 feet of a home late Wednesday morning.

"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."

There has been no significant rain in recent days so the immediate cause of the slide is unknown. But the area has been prone to slides in the past, Hartin said.

A geotechnical expert was being brought in to assess the slide and the danger to homes. If the slide stabilizes, people who live off Fircrest might be allowed to return. But Driftwood Way is a dead end and those homes are now unreachable.

"Being cut off from the road, water and power," residents had to leave, said Island County Sheriff Mark Brown. "It's a pretty massive mudslide."

Many of the homes are summer cabins or weekend getaways that were unoccupied. Residents that heard the slide described it to KOMO-TV as sounding like thunder.

The Ledgewood Beach Property Owners Association website describes its views of Puget Sound.

"We look at Marrowstone Island, the Olympic Peninsula and mountains. Puget Sound shipping lanes add to the view. All the ships that go to Seattle must go by Ledgewood."