Experts warn: Prepare for higher landslide risk this winter

Experts warn: Prepare for higher landslide risk this winter »Play Video
This mudslide in March 2011 damaged two homes and car.
SEATTLE - Forecasters say we should brace for a winter of heavy rain - and that could mean a higher risk of landslides in neighborhoods built on steep slopes.

So experts spent the day at the Northgate Community Center showing local homeowners how to protect themselves if they live in a slide-prone area.

Last season nearly 100 landslides were reported in Seattle. But some previous winters have been even worse - including wniter 1996, when more than 300 landslides slammed parts of the city.

Eric Thoman, who attended this weekend's workshop, says, "We're buying a home on a hillside, believe it or not. We're tempting fate. We think this thing has been engineered to the hilt but you still have questions no matter what."

Some 20,000 properties in Seattle are in landslide-prone areas, and most are residential. And your typical homeowner's insurance policy does not cover slides.

From Halloween to April Fools Day, the city says honmeowners shouldn't do any work on a steep slope.

"Because we know that that is the time that rain starts to build up," says Seattle's Alan Justad. "By January you are really starting to look at a landslide potential."

But you can't just blame Mother Nature for dangerous slides. According to the city, 86 percent of landslides have some human factor, such as disturbing steep slopes, broken pipes and uncontrolled storm water.

Home irrigation systems also can be a contributing factor.

"You need to make sure any irrigation system you have is turned off for the winter - for sure turned off, not you think it's turned off," Justad says. "You don't dump debris over the hillside because that actually turns into landslide material."

This weekend's meeting answered many questions - and opened some eyes.

"I'm more scared than ever," says Thoman. "And I'm telling you what - if we buy this home, I'm going to be the most diligent guy in the neighborhood."

And remember - no matter what winter throws at us, there are some things people can do to avoid their home sliding away.

Another landslide awareness meeting is coming up on Nov. 12 at South Seattle Community College.