MONROE — A horse farm east of Monroe could serve as a helicopter landing zone for emergency air evacuation following a recent mudslide.
With clear skies Tuesday, a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue helicopter landed in a grass field on the farm as members of Fire District 7 and neighbors looked on.
It’s precautionary, but emergency services are preparing for the worst at Skyview Estates, where a mudslide in early February broke off a chunk of 260th Avenue, the private road the neighborhood’s residents rely on to get to town. The 120 people who live there are using all-terrain vehicles or walking to get to Ben Howard Road. But the hill isn’t stable, residents say, and another slide could leave the neighborhood totally stranded.
“It’s a perfect day for us and the pilots to get eyes on the possible landing zone in the case we need it,” said Heather Chadwick, Fire District 7 spokeswoman. “But again, this is not our primary response for getting them down the hill.”
The fire district and sheriff’s office both still plan on using all-terrain vehicles to get up the hill, but Tuesday’s landing offered an alternative if conditions worsen.
“It’s a waiting game,” Chadwick said.
Last week, county investigators “decided to err on the side of caution” by determining one home near the slide may be unsafe to occupy, according to a county Department of Emergency Management news release.
If anyone near a possible landslide hears the sound of wood cracking or another disturbance, they are encouraged to leave the area and call 911.
Contractors originally told residents a fix would cost about $1 million and take a year to complete. Now, the the price is $2 million and a future slide could nullify any progress.
Because 260th Avenue is a private road, the county can’t pay to fix it, according to the state Constitution.
At the same time, neighbors have been scrambling to find an alternate route down the hill since the Feb. 6 mudslide.
Three property owners recently agreed to allow a temporary road to pass through their plots to Ben Howard Road.
There’s no cost estimate yet and the road could take about three months to build, resident Samantha Idle said, but the neighborhood and county are working on sending out bids for construction.
Last week, neighbors set up an online fundraiser to help cover costs. So far, 80 donors have pitched in for more than $6,000.
“It’s good that everybody’s still thinking of us,” Idle said. “We’re definitely not turning away any free gravel or manpower.”
In the meantime, residents without all-terrain vehicles must walk as far as 2 miles from Ben Howard Road to their homes or coordinate a ride through the Skyview Estates Facebook page.
Additionally, most of the homes use propane tanks for gas heat and stoves. Refilling a tank now means running barbecue-sized canisters back and forth from town.
“People are in good spirits, but this is our new norm,” Idle said. “Neighbors are definitely helping neighbors.”