EDMONDS — Rich Lord first heard a low rumble before the trees began skidding around him.
Around 7 p.m. Monday, he walked to the front of his two-story home and looked out to see big branches falling over his driveway on Norma Beach Road north of Edmonds.
One narrowly missed his car.
“I’m dead,” Lord thought to himself before yelling to his dog, Toby, “Let’s get out of here.”
Toby wouldn’t budge so Lord, 63, lifted the 130-pound flat coat retriever into the PT Cruiser.
“I’ve got to get the heck out of here,” he told himself.
Lord’s home was heavily damaged by a mudslide that sent trees and brush crashing through his roof. A retaining wall softened the blow but was broken in several spots. His wife, Pat, was not home when the mud hit.
The slide at Lord’s house was one of several problems brought on by an onslaught of wet weather. In just two weeks, enough rain has fallen to rival a typical full month of March. Numerous landslides have stopped passenger trains between Everett and Seattle. The rail line is expected to be shut down through Friday morning.
The weather from Sunday to Tuesday left Burlington Northern Santa Fe crews with the job of cleaning up 37 different landslides in Western Washington — 95 percent of them between Seattle and Everett.
“It’s due to excessive rainfall, week after week,” BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.
The largest slide hit south of Everett, dumping earth 10 feet deep along a 60-foot stretch of track, Melonas said. Crews expected to finish cleanup there, and at other spots, by Tuesday evening.
This season has been BNSF’s worst in terms of number of slides during the past 15 years, though other years have seen larger slides.
State geologists have been trying to get a better understanding on the amount of rain that triggers landslides. They’re hoping to start a warning system with the National Weather Service.
It appears that about 2.5 inches of rainfall during a week increases the risk, state Department of Natural Resources landslide geologist Isabelle Sarikhan said. That’s less than the 3.5 inches the Weather Service recorded at Paine Field in the seven days ending Tuesday.
“The bluffs are usually the first to start failing, just because they’re more unstable,” Sarikhan said.
The DNR relies on residents to report slides. Most of the reports in Snohomish County this winter have been north of downtown Mukilteo.
Before Monday, Lord had been monitoring the hillside behind his house, fearing the heavy rains that saturated the soil could bring trouble. The night before, his dogs seemed uneasy and insisted on going out much more often than they usually do.
It will be a few days before the Lords know the extent and cost of the repairs.
County officials said the slide was on private property, so the repairs will be up to them. The county’s deputy fire marshal posted the Lords’ house as not inhabitable, though it could, potentially, be repaired.
Lord and his wife urged county officials to check homes on the hill above them.
“We were worried about the people around us,” he said. “This isn’t a game. You could die in this stuff.”
Snohomish County Fire District 1 crews were on the scene of the mudslide Monday night. In a report, a battalion chief described hearing the hillside moving and trees cracking.
They made sure that water and electricity were turned off.
The Lords spent Monday night sleeping on couches in the Champions Real Estate office in Lynnwood they own.
In the daylight Tuesday, Rich Lord could see a huge gash in the hill behind his house.
He also could see the gouges that branches made to his roof and breaking through to his wife’s closet.
“We are going to get it fixed up,” he said. “But it’s going to take quite a while.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report a slide
To report a landslide to the state Department of Natural Resources, including digital pictures, e-mail DNR_GEO_landslide@sharepoint.dis.wa.gov. For more information go to http://www.dnr.wa.gov and search for “report a landslide.”
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