Hillside in Ketchikan gives out, strikes neighborhood

No one injured, but home damaged in landslide on Friday

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2008

KETCHIKAN - At least one home is damaged after a landslide struck a Ketchikan neighborhood.

Hall Anderson / Ketchikan Daily News
Hall Anderson / Ketchikan Daily News

A hillside in the Carlanna Lake area gave out Friday and slid down to Hawkins Avenue.

No one was hurt, but the landslide filled an empty lot with mud and trees, and sent a group of daycare children out onto the snowy street.

The street was blocked to traffic as city crews cleared the area of debris.

The slide took out the deck and stairs of a house.

Public works director Harvey Hansen said the problem stemmed from a privately owned storm drain. He said the city has warned the property owner several times in recent years that the drain was not functioning.

"The hillside became saturated and eventually slipped off," Hansen said.

City workers were trying to get the water going in the right direction.

"See where the water is boiling out of the hill?" Hansen said, pointing to mud-colored water pouring onto the street. "We're trying to get it to go back into the channel."

He said the water had been going through the basement of the home that was damaged by the landslide.

Vince Gilmartin, who owns the home, said pieces of the hillside had been falling for the past few days.

"All of a sudden, the whole thing caved in," he said.

The slide bashed in a door and broke through the basement wall, depositing several feet of mud. Gilmartin said he worried that the house on the hill above his might come down.

"I'm just a homeowner," he said. "I'm just doing my best to protect my property."

Hawkins Avenue resident Gina Palmer, who runs a daycare center from her home, disputed the city's claim that the problem was a private-property issue. Residents in her neighborhood have been battling for years to get the city to take care of the problem, which has caused flooding several times over the years, she said.

Palmer inside her home with her daycare students when the slide occurred.

"We had just finished eating and I heard this really loud rumble and all the trees cracking," she said. "I didn't even look. I knew. I just screamed to the day care kids, 'Emergency evacuation drill. Everyone out. No shoes, no coats, everybody go to the car."'

Palmer said the students practice drills every month, and that practice paid off.

She took the children to a nearby public health center and started calling parents. When she returned to her home, there was a note on her door telling her it was unsafe to stay, at least through the weekend.

Regardless of who is responsible for the faulty drain, it needs to be fixed, Palmer said.

"It's been an issue for years and someone should have been made accountable," she said.

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