Stress and Resilience /Ecology and Society

Carlyon Beach


Seattle Times Seattle, Wash.  Mar 12, 1999    LAURENCE M.  CRUZ

OLYMPIA - In the 20 years since Stuart Edwards and his wife moved into their home, there was not one indication that the land the home was built on was not secure.

"If someone would have walked up on my deck some day to sell me landslide insurance, I would have laughed at them," Edwards told a House panel yesterday.

Now, fissures "are literally tearing in two" the beautiful 3,400-square-foot home and the rental home he bought next door as a 60-acre area of land in the Carlyon Beach-Hunter Point area near Olympia slides in slow-motion toward Puget Sound.  And Edwards, his wife and their two sons are sleeping on the floor at his in-laws'.

"I've lost my American dream," he said.

Edwards, 42, is one of many homeowners caught unaware by what geologists call a prehistoric landslide - an ancient geologic feature not recognized during development of the area but reactivated by three years of heavy rains.

Some 37 homes at Carlyon Beach and 12 more at nearby Sunset Beach have been ruled unlivable by Thurston County authorities.

In Kelso, a slide has damaged or destroyed 103 of the 137 homes in the Aldercrest subdivision.  The rest are expected to meet the same fate within five years.

But although Gov.  Gary Locke last month declared a state of emergency in Thurston County, and President Clinton last October declared Aldercrest a federal disaster area, the pervading sentiment among victims of the landslides is frustration.

Members of the House Local Government, State Government, and Financial Institutions and Insurance committees heard from homeowners from both sites yesterday as part of an educational seminar.

Also testifying were experts from federal and state agencies, local government officials and lenders and insurers.

Most galling to homeowners was that their losses typically are not covered by their insurance.  Often homeowners' insurance provides assistance to repair or rebuild damaged homes in disasters, but landslides - unique because of their slowness - typically are not covered, according to a legislative analysis.

Neither do homeowners expect the promise of disaster relief - expected by mid-October 2000 - to bring much help.  The $4.7 million likely to be available to homeowners at Aldercrest would amount to a return on investment of as little as 20 cents on the dollar.

How much each owner would recover depends on how many vacate their homes, how much money is available and how the money is distributed.  Those details are still under discussion.

Furthermore, homes and public infrastructure cannot be repaired or replaced when the property has slid away, legislative staff members said.

Bruce Koppe of the Washington Bankers Association pledged to continue to work with lawmakers to find solutions, but made no guarantees that banks would follow credit unions, many of which effectively have forgiven debts.

Koppe was one of several witnesses who suggested taxpayers chip in to a national disaster fund to cover landslide-related claims.


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Mar 11, 1999 Karen Hucks

Thurston County will spend up to $15,000 for a Seattle consultant to study the landslide on Sunrise Beach on Steamboat Island peninsula, northwest of Olympia.

Sunrise Beach residents, whose houses are creeping down the hill, had already contracted with Shannon and Wilson, a geotechnical engineering company.

This week they asked the county to pay the company to study what is causing the earth to shift and whether anything can be done to save the houses.

Ten houses on Sunrise Beach have been declared uninhabitable.  Another 51 elsewhere in the county have been declared uninhabitable, mostly on Carlyon Beach, Hunter Point, and on Sunset Drive near The Evergreen State College.

The commissioners already have hired Geo Engineers of Redmond to do a similar study of the Carlyon Beach landslide.

- Karen Hucks, The News Tribune

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.  Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.


Seattle Post - Intelligencer Seattle, Wash.  Mar 3, 1999. DARRELL GLOVER

Earth slides continued to raise havoc with homeowners in the Puget Sound region as a result of record rains.

A summer beach cabin on Fox Island near Gig Harbor in Pierce County was knocked off its foundation Sunday night, and a home on the bluff above the cabin was threatened as some of the home's yard gave way.

Meanwhile, 52 homes in Thurston County, most at Carlyon Beach on Steamboat Island peninsula, have been declared unsafe to live in, said Keith Eisner, spokesman for the county's emergency management.

However, the ground was holding steady yesterday, Eisner said, and the slide areas were being inspected.  Steamboat Island peninsula is on Puget Sound a few miles northwest of Olympia.  Most of the families have moved out or are in the process of moving, Eisner said.

The cabin on the west side of Fox Island was uninhabited and no one was hurt in the slide, said Karen Ferreira, duty officer for Pierce County Emergency Management.

"Neighbors heard what they thought was the wind Sunday night," Ferreira said, "and the slide wasn't discovered until Monday morning.  The ground is so unstable.  A home on top of the bluff is threatened.  The front yard is giving way."

Eisner said a Redmond geological firm has been hired by the county to make a preliminary study of the slide area at Carlyon Beach.  The study is expected to determine how deep and wide the slide area is.

Of 37 homes tagged at Carlyon Beach, 34 have yellow tags, which allows homeowners only to enter to retrieve belongings.  Three of the homes have red tags, declaring them unsafe to enter.

Another nine homes at Sunrise Beach about 12 miles from Carlyon Beach on Steamboat Island peninsula have yellow tags.  At Hunter Point on the peninsula, two homes have yellow tags and two have red tags because of slides, Eisner said.

Another home at Gravelly Beach has a yellow tag, he added.

A slide at Sunset Beach on Cooper Point peninsula near The Evergreen State College has a red tag, Eisner said.

In Seattle, the onramp to the Magnolia Bridge at West Garfield Street and 14th Avenue West, and Ferry Avenue Southwest at California Way Southwest remained closed due to slides.

Mud and water on the roadway caused the bridge onramp closure.  Ferry Avenue will remain closed through the weekend.  Dirt above the slide debris must be removed before the street can be reopened, which is expected early next week.


Seattle Post - Intelligencer Seattle, Wash.  Feb 27, 1999         ROBERT GAVIN

Residents of a neighborhood overlooking Puget Sound raced against weather and shifting ground yesterday as they abandoned homes, friends and lifetimes of dreams.

Weeks of heavy rain have caused a landslide stretching for 1,000 feet across the tip of the Steamboat Island peninsula, jutting into Puget Sound a few miles northwest of the capital.

With roads buckling, foundations cracking and more rain predicted for today, at least 17 families have fled their homes, Thurston County officials said.  They expect the number to reach at least 25 families.

"Fissures are widening and deepening," said Curt Hart, a spokesman for Thurston County Emergency Management.  "This movement is occurring every day."

Rental trucks, pickups, vans and station wagons crowded into driveways yesterday as residents of this neighborhood, a private community called Carlyon Beach, tried to salvage belongings.  Most have accepted that their homes cannot be saved.

Jenny Schluter, 45, and her husband, Ulrich, 46, believed they were safe when they bought a two-story beige home on Crestridge Drive, far from the water's edge but with views of the Sound peeking through the trees.

They thought of it as the place where they would stay, grow old, and someday retire, Jenny Schluter said.  They poured their savings into the home, fashioning it to their dreams.

An addition, with some studs still exposed, stood nearly finished as they loaded boxes into the back of a rental truck yesterday.  Jenny Schluter conceded it would never be completed.

"The day we moved in, we started working," she said.  "You save your money, and this is your investment.  It's your sweat, heart and everything."

Residents said insurance won't cover their losses.  Thurston County officials say they will seek federal disaster assistance for losses caused by slides in the northwest part of the county, and flooding in the south.

They are gathering estimates of uninsured damage, and will give figures to the state Tuesday.  If the damage meets the threshold for federal disaster assistance, homeowners might be eligible for low- interest loans.

Most of the slide damage is concentrated on the Steamboat Island peninsula, primarily on the Carlyon Beach area, said Hart, the emergency management spokesman.  One home on Sunset Beach, across Eld Inlet from Steamboat Island, has been declared unsafe, while three homes on Sunrise Beach, just south of Carlyon, appear endangered, he said.

Emergency officials continue to monitor the progress of the slide, Hart said.  Sheriff's deputies are also patrolling the evacuated neighborhood around the clock to guard against looting.

Carlyon Beach is a neighborhood of modest one- and two-story homes, tucked close together on sharply rising slopes carved by glaciers.

Annette and Stuart Edwards found their home here 20 years ago; they were enchanted by the sweeping views of the Sound and, on clear days, the panorama of the Olympic Mountains stretching from Mount Washington to Port Angeles.

With the sun breaking through for the first time in days, Annette Edwards, 41, carried the last boxes from her home.  The Edwardses began moving out about a week ago, after they discovered a crack in the foundation, a crack that has grown to a gaping fissure.

Edwards stopped for a moment on a side deck, recently shored up, but still leaning toward a small green cottage next door.  The couple own that home, too, which they rent out.  They also have an undeveloped lot nearby.  Total value, about $350,000, Edwards estimated.

"We're looking at a bankruptcy situation here," she said.  "They don't forgive the mortgages.  That house (next door), that's my kids' college education."

Carlyon Beach is one of hundreds of communities that dot the slopes of Puget Sound, and just the latest to lose the battle with weather and geology.  Two years ago, a slide on Bainbridge Island slopes overlooking Rolling Bay killed four people, and uprooted a neighborhood.

Few companies will insure these homes against slides, and those that do charge stratospheric rates.  But still, people buy them.

Patricia Gentry, 54, a state employee, said she was attracted to Carlyon Beach by the peace she could find just a short commute from Olympia.  She bought the home nearly a dozen years ago, but still remembers the first week when some deer ventured into the yard.

"I always felt very safe here," she said.  "I'm going to be paying for this house the rest of my life.  When you have to pay a mortgage, and your house is in the Sound, it's real, real hard."

Along with their homes, the residents lamented the loss of their neighbors and way of life they say was as special as their views.

"We were all here for a reason, because we love it," said Annette Edwards, as she locked the door.  "When the sun shines here, it really shines."

Color Photo, Map; Caption: (1) MIKE URBAN/P-I: Friends and neighbors step over a fissure while helping to move Ulrich and Jenny Schluter's belongings from their home near Olympia.  A rain-caused landslide is forcing out the Schluters and other families.  (2) P-I: Hunter Point mudslides


Columbian Vancouver Feb 26, 1999

OLYMPIA (AP) A creeping landslide has forced Thurston County to evacuate 25 homes on the tip of the Steamboat Island Peninsula northwest of here.

"We didn't want to do this to anybody," said county spokesman Curt Hart said Thursday.  "But it's for their own health and safety."

The 60-acre landslide is folding roads and cracking houses on the 15-degree slopes overlooking the Puget Sound.

"When we went out (Wednesday), the progression of continuous movement of the land seemed to be buckling and damaging homes at an even greater rate," said Don Krupp, county development services director.  "We felt it was appropriate to kick in and turn the ratchet."

U-Haul trucks abounded as residents packed up.

"You don't know whether to laugh or cry," Bob Paris said as he and his wife, Jenny, prepared to leave their Carlyon Beach house of 17 years.

"We've really enjoyed it here."

Earlier this week, one house on Sunrise Beach was affected by a landslide.


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Feb 23, 1999         Karen Hucks

Thurston County residents have sustained $3 million to $5 million in property damage because of landslides and flooding, emergency management officials said Monday.

In addition, damaged county roads will cost $100,000 to repair, and some private roads near the sliding Carlyon Beach area on Steamboat Island will cost another $300,000 to $500,000.

"And as we can see, it's continuing to rain," said Lester Olson, Thurston County's emergency management director.

Thurston County commissioners declared a local emergency Monday morning.  It is the first step in applying state and federal grants and low-interest loans to help people rebuild.

At the urging of state Department of Natural Resources geophysicist Stephen Palmer, the three commissioners also decided to hire a hydrotechnical company to investigate the causes and the dangers of the slide.

"It goes back to the question of how many people should be advised to vacate," said Judy Wilson, chairwoman of the commission.  The county hasn't committed to pay for any mitigation, however.

The county has declared two houses uninhabitable and advised six families to leave their homes because of slides or flooding.

Palmer said Carlyon Beach is on an ancient land fault that covers 60 acres.  "And it is all currently moving," he said.  All the homes on the fault have been compromised, Palmer said.  The question is whether more houses farther up the slope also will be in danger.

He compared the creeping slide to the one in Kelso that destroyed more than 100 houses last year.

In addition to the approximately 30 homes in Thurston County affected by the landslide, another 170 have been flooded by rain that has been unable to drain.

Between November and January, Thurston County got 40.5 inches of rain - 60 percent above normal.  February's average is 5.8 inches, but the county already had 6.3 inches by mid-February.

"I look around at all our houses up on hillsides and I worry about them," Wilson said.  "We don't even know what other areas could potentially have the same problems as Carlyon Beach.  Hopefully this isn't the first of many, but it could be."


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Feb 26, 1999     Karen Hucks

Bob and Jenny Paris packed their belongings Thursday afternoon, reluctantly preparing to leave the Carlyon Beach house where they have spent the past 17 years.

"You don't know whether to laugh or cry," Bob Paris said sadly.  "We've really enjoyed it here."

The Parises' house, on a hill overlooking Puget Sound, was one of 25 on the tip of the Steamboat Island Peninsula northwest of Olympia that Thurston County declared uninhabitable Thursday.

A creeping landslide, which spans 60 acres, continues to fold roads and crack houses on the 15-degree slopes of the 40-year-old housing development.  Thursday afternoon, U-Haul trucks peppered the landscape as residents heeded the county's advice to get out.

"We didn't want to do this to anybody," said county spokesman Curt Hart.  "But it's for their own health and safety."

The land continues to slide as rain continues to fall in the county.

"When we went out (Wednesday), the progression of continuous movement of the land seemed to be buckling and damaging homes at an even greater rate," said Don Krupp, county development services director.  "We felt it was appropriate to kick in and turn the ratchet."

Residents may retrieve belongings and make repairs to their houses, but they can't sleep there, Krupp said.  And they should do any work in pairs, he said.

Thurston County commissioners declared a countywide emergency Monday, in response to the landslide damage as well as flooding throughout the county.  Record rainfall during the past four months has meant trouble for about 200 houses, emergency management officials estimated.

The county declared two houses uninhabitable late last week.  One of those, which had slide damage, was near The Evergreen State College on Sunset Beach.  The other, which suffered septic tank flooding, was south of Tumwater.

Other landslides were hitting the Steamboat Island Peninsula this week.  One on Sunrise Beach affected only one house.  Frye Cove County Park also had slide damage, and at least one of its trails has been closed.

The county hopes to hire a hydrotechnical consultant by Monday to investigate the causes and the dangers of the Carlyon Beach slide.

Officials interviewed Landslide Technology of Portland, Geo Engineers of Redmond and Shannon and Wilson Inc.  of Seattle this week.

State Department of Natural Resources geophysicist Stephen Palmer implored the county to hire a consultant immediately after he inspected Carlyon Beach over the weekend.  He said Thursday that he didn't want to speculate about whether the landslide would move farther up the hill and endanger more houses.

But every day, the cracks in the road and in houses widened.

"It won't be very long before those roads are impassable," he said.

Jenny Paris said she had been afraid to stay in her house on Mariner Drive Northwest for the past week, so she had stayed with her son in Spokane.

"I don't want to sleep here tonight," she said.

Krupp said only a detailed geological survey will tell whether the compromised houses can be fixed.

But Bob Paris, who is a school bus driver for the Tumwater School District, said he doesn't expect ever to be able to return to his home.  And since he and his wife still have a mortgage, and no insurance protecting them against such a natural disaster, they are hoping for federal assistance.  The house was their retirement nest egg.

Thursday, though, with the help of friends and relatives, they were focusing on the immediate future.

"We've got to move out of here, so that's what we're going to do," he said.

SIDEBAR: Help available

* Thurston County residents who have uninsured property losses caused by flooding or landslides can report it to Thurston County Emergency Management at 360-754-3360.

* Anyone without a place to go can call the Red Cross at 360-352-8575.

Caption: COLOR PHOTO / Lui Kit Wong/The News Tribune - Above: After 17 years in their home atop a hill at Carlyon Beach near Olympia, Bob Paris and his wife, Jenny, are among 25 families ordered by Thurston County to vacate.  COLOR MAP / Derrik Quenzer; The News Tribune (See microfilm) SIDEBAR: Help available (A12)


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Feb 20, 1999      Karen Hucks

Thurston County advised half a dozen families on the tip of Steamboat Island in Olympia to get out of their homes this week because landslides made them unsafe.

Record rainfall the past four months has wreaked havoc on about 200 properties throughout the county, causing houses to crack and slide.  Other houses, roads and septic tanks have been flooding.

Carlyon Beach resident Stuart Edwards listened to his house crack and pop every time the tide rolled out in Puget Sound.

"It's an uneasy feeling," said Edwards, who has lived in his house on Crestridge Drive Northwest for 20 years.  "We're basically in shock more than anything."

Thurston County commissioners plan to declare a countywide emergency Monday in response to the landslide damage and flooding.

That would allow the county to apply for state and federal assistance for residents who suffer damage to their homes and businesses.

"We have significant concerns about the kind of damage that's happening to private property, and we are doing what we can to connect people to resources," said Linda Hoffman, county chief administrative officer.

About 30 houses on Carlyon Beach had cracked and slid by Friday afternoon.  In addition to the approximately six families the county advised to move, some others moved on their own, said Don Krupp, county development services director.

The county declared one house near The Evergreen State College uninhabitable.

In eight areas throughout the county, including sections north of Lacey and south of Tumwater, constant heavy rain collected in low-lying pockets that don't drain.

Frye Cove County Park, on the Steamboat Island peninsula, had slide damage.  The county placed emergency load restrictions on Tono Road in southern Thurston County.

The areas are generally the same as those that flooded in spring 1997, said Mike Karl, county emergency program manager.  But twice as many houses were affected then, he said.

Declaring an emergency would be only the first step in a long process that doesn't guarantee that the county will be able to apply for federal assistance, officials said.

And if the assistance is granted, it often is limited to low-interest loans for home and business owners.

Generally, state and federal governments base qualification for the program on uninsured losses.

Edwards jacked up his Carlyon Beach house 3 or 4 inches Friday because the foundation had slid and cracked.

"I'm trying to make it safe and livable so we don't have to be relocated," he said.  "I'm not as bad off as some people.  Some people have had to leave."

"If I'm going to lose everything, I'm going to go down fighting," he vowed.

Krupp said he doesn't expect a catastrophic event, but houses continue to slide and flood as it rains.

"It's kind of a slow creep," Krupp said.  "As the land is moving, the homes are twisting and turning on their foundations."

Caption: COLOR MAP / Derrik Quenzer; The News Tribune - Carlyon Beach: Landslides endangering homes


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Jun 10, 1999        Karen Hucks

When Thurston County residents John and Jean McCarthy got their $5,000 property tax bill this year, it was especially painful.

They paid the half due in April, even though their Hunter Point retirement home, on nearly 3 1/2 acres with a view of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains, is sliding down the hill.  The county evacuated them in February, and a private appraiser recently estimated their loss at $817,000.

"It hurts to pay a tax on something that's worth nothing," John McCarthy said.

But the McCarthys and others like them will be getting money back this year, thanks to a new law.

Gov.  Gary Locke signed a bill this week that will reduce taxes on property that has been destroyed or significantly damaged and on property damaged at least 20 percent in an area the governor declares a disaster.

Property owners always have been able to have their property reassessed following a loss, but it didn't affect their tax bills until the following year.  So people whose homes were destroyed during the early 1999 landslides and floods in Thurston County would have had to pay taxes on the property's full value this year.  They would have paid less in 2000.

But the new law will mean a more immediate break.  The bill was made retroactive to 1998 to include more than 130 people who lost their homes in a landslide in Kelso.

Rep.  Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton) introduced the bill with Thurston County residents in mind.  It was approved in May during the special session.

Early this year, landslides and floods pounded the homes of hundreds of Thurston County residents.  The county evacuated about 60 families, mostly on Steamboat Island, because of landslides.  About 200 properties throughout the county were damaged by flooding.

In March, Locke proclaimed a state of emergency in Thurston and four other counties across the state.

The new law "really brings fairness and balance to the destroyed property," said Thurston County Commissioner Kevin O'Sullivan, a former county assessor who worked to get the bill passed.  "The whole idea of the taxation is that piece of property is using services."

But people don't use services if they can't live in their houses, he said.

"You've got to remember these people have suffered a total loss," Haigh said.  "It was just adding insult to a severe injury."

But she acknowledges that the new law, which takes effect immediately, has a down side.

If property owners get a break on their taxes, that means less money for local taxing districts, such as schools and fire districts, which count on that money to provide services.

"We're a small school district," said Griffin Superintendent Harry Carthum.  "And we cannot afford to lose $30,000 or $40,000 in income.  I'm in full agreement that those people out there need all the tax relief that they can get.  But on the other hand, our expenses aren't going to go down."

Thurston County Assessor Patricia Costello said she doesn't know yet how much money taxing districts will lose because she doesn't know how many people will need a refund this year.

Her office has identified about 150 people so far.

"It's a horrible situation," said Patricia Gentry, a state worker who had planned to live in her house on Carlyon Beach for the rest of her life.

As she watches her house move, inch by inch, down the slope, she wonders how she will pay off her old mortgage and buy another place, even with federal assistance.

Many of those affected will have to declare bankruptcy, she said.

"To get any assistance whatsoever is a great help to us, because we have absolutely nothing," said Gentry, 55.  "We're begging for absolutely everything we get."


The News Tribune Tacoma, Wa.  Jun 1, 2000       Lisa Cosmillo,  Carlyon Beach

Ted Erickson has lived in his Carlyon Beach home on the tip of Steamboat Island for 10 years and plans to stay, despite the moving earth around him.

"I have absolutely zero intentions of leaving," he said.

In 1999 when the land around Erickson's $180,000 home in unincorporated Thurston County shifted because record rainfall, causing a 66-acre landslide, his home sustained little damage.

"They want everyone who lives in the slide area to tear down," Erickson said.  "Please do it on a case by case basis."

The county hired GeoEngineers Inc.  to examine area in March 1999 and complete a detailed study of the slide to predict any future shifting.

Joe Butler, a Thurston County building official, explained that the land was shifting like a bowl in the palm of your hand looking for balance.

Butler said each home was examined by three inspectors.  During the slide, some homes were damaged to different degrees, depending on their location.

Many were left with gaping cracks and drops in the homes' foundations that ruined electrical and plumbing lines.  Others have damage akin to that of a home settling.

Erickson's 35-year-old home was one of the least affected, and he now is the sole resident of the damaged area.

The worst news for Carlyon Beach homeowners was that neither insurance nor the Federal Emergency Management Agency was going to foot the bill.  It was up to homeowners to demolish the homes and pay the balance of their mortgages out of their own pockets.

County Commissioner Kevin O'Sullivan has been working with the banks to try and get them to forgive any outstanding debt on the homes.

"Olympia Federal Savings has agreed to forgive an $80,000 loan," O'Sullivan said.  He is meeting with other banks in hopes of finding similar relief for the homeowners.

O'Sullivan was instrumental in gathering a group of volunteers to help tear down 17 of the homes over the past couple of weeks at no cost to the owners..

Erickson said he believes Thurston County is exaggerating the risk.

"It's been blown out of proportion," he said.  "If it's so dangerous, why is the county parking expensive equipment on it and crawling around like ants on it?"

Butler said the county is weighing the factors at its disposal: the geological report, inspections of each of the 33 homes and photos.

"The engineers have said this is not the type of slide that will become catastrophic quickly," Butler said.  "But they are pessimistic in their report that any of the homes in the area will remain unharmed.  The earth always wins."

Based on the information gathered, the county has sent letters to the homeowners notifying them to implement one of two options:

Homeowners have until July 31.

Five homeowners have filed appeals to the county's time limit for removal of the buildings.  The appeals will be brought before a hearing examiner at 10 a.m.  June 19 in the Thurston County Courthouse.

At this time, the county has the Carlyon Beach properties posted for no occupancy, Butler said.  But Erickson continues to live in his home.

Butler said the county will not rush to evict him.

"We're not focused on trying to create any suffering or discomfort for the residents," he said.

Butler said he looks forward to the hearing because it will be an opportunity for another party to give the situation a measured view and a fair finding.

"There's a lot at stake, so it's going to be a little tense, but we're not trying to win anything," he said.

But Erickson is.

"Why tear down a perfectly good home?" he asked.  "If the earth moves under my house and splits it in two, I'll be the first to tear it down."

But for now, "I'm planning to stay with my property unless Mother Nature takes it from me.".