After the heavy rains of Thursday evening, Jan. 6, Vashon saw at least four landslides on the following day.
The first landslide occurred before dawn just south of Vashon ferry dock, with soil and debris blocking the two ferry offload lanes of southbound Vashon Highway SW. King County Road Services Division (KC Roads) redirected traffic onto 103rd Ave SW. County crews arrived to stabilize the slide and clear the roadway.
At about 9 a.m. on Friday morning, Vashon Island Fire and Rescue (VIFR) responded to a call regarding a home affected by a landslide near the waterfront in the Dolphin Point neighborhood.
Two adults had been in the home, but were able to get out safely — no injuries or fatalities were reported. Puget Sound Energy was on scene and cut off power to the affected home. The home was subsequently red-tagged as unsafe for occupancy by the King County Department of Local Services, Permitting Division.
Nearby residents, below the slide area, voluntarily evacuated their homes, as soils were seen to be heavily saturated, with surface water also flowing. At least one other home and a vehicle were reported affected by mudslides. Neighbors uphill and inland from the landslide used their Neighborhood Emergency Response Organization (NERO) network to check on each other.
Other problems on Vashon-Maury were addressed by King County Road Services on Friday as a result of the heavy precipitation: a landslide blocking part of 137th Ave. SW near Cove Walk, and a subsiding roadbed in the 13300 block of Burma Rd. A fallen tree also blocked the road near the east end of Luana Beach Rd. on Maury Island. King County Roads cordoned off all areas where damage or blockage posed a hazard.
In response to the landslide at Dolphin Point, at 10:20 a.m. on Friday, Fire Chief Charles Krimmert of VIFR requested activation of Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center team volunteers to provide support and prepare for worsening conditions or additional situations.
The EOC team received activation support from King County Office of Emergency Management (KCOEM) as part of their January Weather and Flooding activation. Chief Krimmert and the EOC team met twice via video on Friday with representatives from a number of King county departments, including KCOEM, King County Department of Local Services (DLS), and Local Services’ Permitting Division.
Information was gathered from multiple sources, and a situation report was developed by the Vashon EOC team. Leaders of some Vashon social service groups were alerted to prepare for possible future needs of displaced residents. KC Roads sent a roads engineer to assess the condition of county roads. In the subsequent 24 hours, no new incidents were reported, so on Saturday Chief Krimmert lowered the EOC team’s activation level for the landslides to monitoring.
In addition to the mudslides, Vashon was also awash from record high tides last week, also observed in many communities from British Columbia to south Puget Sound and Hood Canal.
KUOW reported that “Friday morning’s tide in Seattle appears to be the highest in more than a century of record-keeping, though the tidal gauge at Colman Dock blinked out for half an hour as Elliott Bay swelled past 14.47 feet, its highest elevation in at least 40 years, at 9 a.m.”
On Vashon, islander Bruce Haulman observed the King tide on KVI Beach on Friday morning. Driven by a low-pressure system, the tide nearly covered all of the KVI sand spit. Quartermaster Drive was also impassable for a time on Friday, with at least one car swamped in the rising water, according to islander Dale Burlingame, who observed the scene.
In Manzanita, water breached bulkheads and inundated beach-facing yards.
— Elizabeth Shepherd contributed reporting to this story.
Correction, Jan. 13: The print and previous online version of this story referenced King County Department of Local Services, Permitting Division, by its previous name, King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER). We regret the error.