Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hoquiam Landslides, January 2015

January 5, 2015 was a bad day for the City of Hoquiam. Flooding and then landslides hit several areas of the city. The recent landslides are obvious scars on the steep slopes on the north side of the city. The worst area was along the steep slope of Beacon Hill.  

One of the destroyed homes still on site 11 months later 

Location of two former homes

An interesting bit on the three homes hit by slides along Queets Avenue is that two were occupied at the time the slides came down. One was pushed off its foundation into the street, but no one was injured. Impressive in that it suggests the home framing structure must have been strong.

Most of the soil on steep slope has slid 

 It is readily apparent that the top soil layer pealed away from the hard unweathered bedrock on the steep slope. It also appears that more material will likely come down the slope.

This section of slope did not slide in Jan 2015

1990 aerial view of area with Beacon Hill Road above the neighborhood

2013 view of land cleared above the slide area.

Other areas of Beacon Hill had problems as well including the road to the hill top which was blocked by slides and homes were damaged and destroyed that were above the other slide areas.

The slides were a hard hit to this city. The landslide damage just to the city property was estimated at $1.8 million. But tough for home owners or renters as landslide insurance is very rarely carried.

The damage cost to the City of Hoquiam was $1.8 million. A tough nut for a city that has been seeing some significant declines in tax base. The closure of the Harbor Paper mill in 2013 cut $500,000 out of the annual tax revenue for the city and 240 jobs left the city. The city staff level has declined nearly 30% since 1995.

The city reported that a DNR geologist inspected the slopes of Beacon Hill after the slides( This could not have been an easy task under the circumstances. The brief report concluded with a not very comfortable ending:

Residents along Queets Avenue (with the exception of the homes condemned) are hereby advised the city is unable to assess or determine the condition of their home or property.
Although there has not been any visible significant movement today of the hillsides along Beacon Hill, the city cannot guarantee the safety of any structures above or below this area. Each resident is urged to contact their insurance provider as well as engineering and licensed geological experts to determine the status and safety of their premises should they chose to return.

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