Landslides endanger WA neighborhoods

BY P.J. HELLER | Seattle, WA | March 2, 2001

Landslides triggered by Wednesday's earthquake are endangering Washington neighborhoods on the outskirts of

Seattle, according to Rob Harper, public information officer for Washington emergency management.

In the neighborhood of Burien, south of Seattle, a mudslide may have destroyed six homes and affected a dozen, said Harper. In the rural

community of Renton, a landslide backed up the Cedar River, sending a deluge of mud and water into several homes there. In Salmon

Beach, seven families have been affected by a landslide.

Landslides are a high hazard for residents right now, said Harper, since the quake caused slope instability, and ongoing rain and

aftershocks are loosening mountainsides even more. "All the shoreline of the Puget Sound is unstable," he said.

If life is returning to normal for some residents, many others are concerned about their safety because of mudslides. The 6.8-magnitude

quake caused more than $1 billion in damage. President George W. Bush has declared western Washington state a disaster area.

A meeting of Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster (VOAD) will be held Friday.

Of the 250 injuries associated with the quake, none was critical. Disaster response organizations are assessing needs of residents. Besides

the concern over landslides, people are uncovering structural damage, and many will suffer an economic impact from lost wages because

some businesses aren't in operation.

Many disaster response experts are attributing the less-than-expected damage and injuries to successful retrofitting efforts brought about

by Project Impact, an initiative launched by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help build disaster-resistant communities.

The quake happened one day after President Bush proposed zeroing out Project Impact because, according to his budget report, "it was

not effective."

Many residents had nailed down water heaters, retrofitted their homes, and taken other precautions. "I don't mind saying my heart was

firmly lodged in my throat," said one Seattle-area resident. "The utter sense that I had no control over the situation was pretty danged

frightening. I've been in several tornadoes and a hurricane, but those you can generally get away from. Earthquakes. . .well, you just


Joyce Olson, a receptionist at First Baptist Church in White Center, said the quake hit with such force that it knocked her down. "At first, I

thought something was wrong with me," she said. "The floor literally rolled up. I've got to tell you that I'm just as nervous as I can possibly

be," she added. "I've never seen anything like this."

Rick Augsburger, director of the Emergency Response Program of Church World Service (CWS) said CWS is trying to determine

appropriate response. CWS will be represented at Friday's VOAD meeting. The Week of Compassion (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian

Disaster Response and the United Church of Christ's Wider Church Ministries were among response organizations said to be evaluating

the region's needs as well.

Gary Floyd, disaster relief coordinator for the Northwest Baptist Convention, said his office was on standby. "We've heard there was a

considerable amount of damage near the epicenter of the quake and we have several churches in that area," Floyd said. "We're going to

have to wait and see when they need us."

The quake, which occurred Wednesday at 10:54 a.m. (PST) 10 miles northeast of the state capital Olympia and 35 miles southwest of Seattle,

caused a large crack in the dome atop the state Capitol.

The temblor shattered windows and caused masonry to fall from buildings in the downtown Seattle area. Power was knocked out to more

than 200,00 people in the region. Telephone service was also disrupted.

The wall of at least one building collapsed and people were evacuated from other buildings, including City Hall in Seattle and the

Multnomah County Courthouse in Portland.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said his city avoided "catastrophic damage" because of seismic retrofitting.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was damaged by the quake and

temporarily closed the airport, disrupting travel plans for thousands of people at the busy airport and at other locations around the


Buildings in Portland, some 150 miles from the epicenter, swayed for up to half a minute, according to witnesses.

An emergency operations center (EOC) was set up south of Tacoma. Schell said there were no reports of major fires or major injuries.

Crews were checking roads, bridges and buildings for structural damage. Some buildings could be condemned. Parts of U.S. Highway 101

northwest of Olympia were buckled by the jolt.

The temblor was felt from Vancouver, B.C., in the north to Portland, Ore., to the south. It was also felt as far as 700 miles in Salt Lake City,


The National Earthquake Information Center initially reported the magnitude of the quake at 7.0 but later lowered it to 6.8.

The epicenter was in the same general area as a quake that hit April 13, 1949, according to the center. That 7.1 temblor killed eight people.

Monday's quake was about one-third as strong, it said.

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake struck near the Seattle area on Jan. 28, 1995. Another quake, this one measuring 6.5, hit on April 29, 1965 and

killed seven people.

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