Massive landslide closes roads, knocks out power near Index

Massive landslide closes roads, knocks out power near Index »Play Video
INDEX, Wash. -- It appears to be big enough to cover a football field several feet high -- a landslide of mud and trees that fell across part of Mt. Index River Road a few miles off Highway 2.

By Wednesday evening one lane of the road is temporarily open, allowing about eighty residents access in and out of their homes.

But workers plan to return early Thursday morning to continue removing unstable trees that threaten to tear down power lines. Snohomish PUD crews must remove the lines so those timber workers can do their job.

The utility says that will require what could amount to an all-day power outage for some customers in the area.

The mudslide occurred about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, causing an initial power outage affecting about 300 homes. Power was restored early Wednesday morning, until more trouble unfolded.

Unstable trees that stayed upright but moved downhill in the landslide were still slowly shifting in the soft soil. When one of them started to burn after contacting a wire, crews decided to close the road and start cutting down timber.

That required PUD crews to temporarily take down power lines starting around noon on Wednesday.

"You can see all the trees that have come down," said resident Lynne Kelly. "It's very lucky no cars were driving by when they came down."

Lynne has lived in the private Mt. Index River Sites development for 29 years. She's lucky. Her home was below the road closure and allowed her access to Highway 2.

She says landslides big enough to close the road happen every few years, but she has never considered leaving.

"Everybody has to decide for themselves if it's worth it, if it's worth the hassle," she said. "When you get up in the morning on a clear day and look at the mountains, that's all it takes to know there's no place else you'd ever want to be."

The slide is blocking half of the two-lane road that provides the only route to the upper reaches of the Mt. Index River Sites development. There's room for cars to pass through as long as crews are not working.

It could take weeks to clear the entire road and shore-up the hillside along the road.

Locals say about 80 of the approximately 100 full-time residents live above the landslide, with Mt. Index River Road is the only way in and out.

A supervisor at the scene said the bitterly cold weather we had last week contributed to causing the slide.

Freezing temperatures created a layer of hard soil. When we warmed up, a space developed beneath that layer and allowed the ground above it to move under its own mass.