MONROE – Residents of Skyview Estates are used to seeing the private road in and out of their small community occasionally blocked by snow and ice, but some are beginning to panic.
The winding road, 260th Avenue Southeast, that snakes up to the 44-home neighborhood east of Monroe is continuing to crumble away after being hit by last week’s landslide. Because it’s the only road into the hilltop community, residents are concerned they’ll soon be stranded.
“I’ve never cried more in my life,” said Jason Knox, who’s lived in the Skyview Estates neighborhood for about four years. “It’s just the stress and fatigue.”
Samantha Idle, a landscaper who works in Seattle and lives in Skyview, spent a recent afternoon transporting landscaping lights to place along the private road for people walking up and down the hill at night.
“Welcome to our mess,” she said.
Snohomish County officials say at least one home near the mudslide could be unsafe to inhabit. The house sits at the bottom of the hill near the 26000 block of Ben Howard Road — the publicly maintained road that connects with 260th Avenue. It hasn’t been evacuated, but entry is limited and at the owner’s risk, said Scott North, a spokesman for the county department of emergency management. No Skyview homes have been declared in danger by the moving land.
The main concern for the 120 Skyview residents is a large crack in the asphalt about halfway up the hill. Another piece of road, 260th Avenue Southeast, has sunk 4 to 6 inches in the past few days, and new cracks appeared Wednesday.
This 150-foot section of 260th Avenue — from the main crack to the sunken portion — has to be replaced, but the entire road also needs to be anchored to bedrock, which is about 40 feet below the asphalt.
The road is currently only accessible by all-terrain vehicle, or on foot, though residents say it could just be a matter of time before the whole road is gone.
Knox, who serves on the neighborhood residents’ board, said because 260th Avenue could take up to a year to fully repair, they’ve spent the week identifying spots where a temporary road could be built. One possibility, he said, is to build one through private property west of Skyview Estates, though the owner’s permission would be needed.
If they get the green light to start building, Knox said they’re hoping to start construction on the temporary road — or least start “whacking the weeds” — as soon as this weekend.
While 260th Avenue is a private road — formerly owned by a timber company and used as a logging road — several county departments have been pitching in to help.
Snohomish County Fire District 5 has an ATV equipped to transport patients in case of emergency, said department spokeswoman Heather Chadwick. Because some residents are certified EMS providers, fire officials are also planning to provide them with emergency medical and basic life support supplies.
“It’s so that just in case there’s something major, they can respond right away, while we’re on our way,” Chadwick said.
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office sent patrols to the site this week to regulate traffic near the slide, and the county’s public works department has also sent officials out to survey the area.
“At this time county staff are assessing the potential threat to public infrastructure … and potential impacts to homes below the landslide area,” public works spokeswoman Meghan Jordan wrote in an email. “We understand this is a stressful situation for the residents impacted and want to do what we can to support them.”
Residents are working with Robinson Noble, an environmental consultant in Woodinville, to analyze soil samples and determine how likely it is that the land could keep sliding, but because the group isn’t contracted yet, the agency declined to comment.
Keena Hopkins, 30, who grew up in the Skyview community and works in Seattle, said she took the week off to help pitch in.
“I guess we always thought this was a possibility,” she said. “But not to this extent.”
Many residents are struggling with a growing list of day-to-day worries — getting kids to school, commuting to work, disposing of garbage, delivering propane up to homes that rely on it and receiving mail and packages, Hopkins said.
Because the uphill walk is steep and especially difficult for some residents or small children, community members have been using ATVs to shuttle people up and down. But they know that’s not a long-term solution.
The cost of repairs also remains a major hurdle.
“We have a small emergency fund, but it doesn’t cover the magnitude of what this is,” Knox said.
Residents are expecting the road repairs to cost about $2 million, which the county isn’t responsible for because it’s not a public road. While they’re hoping to receive a few emergency grants from the government, Knox said they’ll most likely have to pay a significant portion out-of-pocket.
They’re looking to the public for help. Some residents started a GoFundMe earlier for their neighborhood this week and had raised about $5,000 as of Friday afternoon.
“Financial donations have as big an impact emotionally and morally as with funding … It can feel a little isolating,” Knox said. “That rallying cry makes a difference.”
The heavy rains earlier this month also spawned a slide that threatened access to a community in King County. The road, 356th Drive near Highway 202 outside Fall City, was closed for several hours on Friday while a geotechnical soil expert assessed the slide area, according to King County road spokesperson Broch Bender. The road provides sole access to 75 homes.
The department reopened 356th Drive later Friday afternoon, though officials said in a statement that residents should be aware that it could close again at any time depending on weather conditions. Bender said officials are monitoring the road around the clock and have made sure there’s an alternate route in case of another closure.
Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge contributed to this report.