A multitude of worries plague homeowners at landslide site

COUPEVILLE, Wash. - Owners of about two dozen homes that have been cut off or threatened by a massive Whidbey Island landslide are worried about everything from structural damage and insurance claims to looting and lookie-loos.

More than 60 people attended a Thursday night community meeting with officials to discuss some of the effects of the landslide Wednesday that displaced 200,000 cubic yards of earth, or about 40,000 dump truck loads.

A spokesman for Island County, Christopher Schwarzen, says residents want to know when they can get back into their homes. They're also worried about looters. The Sheriff's Office plans extra patrols.

Twenty properties on a scenic island hillside were damaged by the slide, with some suffering structural damage and others losing portions of their yards.

"We can't get there except to walk. There's no electricity and no water at the moment," said homeowner Joanna Bachman.

Another homeowner, Ralph Young, said he is concerned about continuing movement of the earth at the site.

"Every few seconds, you lose another few feet of the bluff," he said.

Many residents are anxious for a specific cause of the slide to be declared, because that will affect their insurance claims. A "mudslide" might not be covered, but a "geological shift" could be.

In a preliminary report, geologists say the chance of another catastrophic movement is "low, but possible."

Homeowners also have mentioned another worry heading into the weekend. Nice, sunny weather is in the forecast, and some are concerned that could bring a lot of people coming to this part of Whidbey Island just to see the slide for themselves.

Meanwhile, parts of this neighborhood are still moving - the area remains what's considered an "active event."

Utility crews spent most of yesterday building new gravel trails to allow people to access places more easily. The plan is get working roads down to those isolated homes within two weeks.

More roads have been closed and sections have been deemed unstable. That's keeping some families from being able to go home - possibly for good.

A small cluster of houses just might not survive. Four homes are yellow-tagged for danger - those owners could run in and grab a few more things, but then had to quickly get out.

One house is red-flagged - it's just too treacherous to enter.

Families in 35 homes who were initially evacuated are being allowed to return slowly.

Geologists say this landslide is a small portion of a much larger "landslide complex" that is 1 1/2 miles long and dates back 11,000 years.