USGS study: Seattle landslide occurence 'not fully understood'

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by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 10:52 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 8 at 5:48 AM

SEATTLE -- Isolated along Magnolia Bluff by a tall black fence is Frances Popstojanovic's favorite perch. It’s a place to see Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and the beauty of the Northwest.

"It's just magic," she said Monday, soaking the sunshine, "It's like a respite."

But nearly 20 years ago, a landslide took part of her viewpoint, and several homes, away.  Her rock is now off-limits.

"It boggles my brain why people live on the edge," said Popstojanovic, "I wouldn't do that."

Magnolia Bluff is one of many places around Seattle where landslides are common.  A 2006 study by U.S. Geological Survey Research Geologist Bill Schulz investigated the city's danger.

"Seattle is one of the most susceptible areas in the U.S.," said Schulz, who coincidentally is in Arlington now working on the Oso landslide,

He used a laser technology called LIDAR to uncover how many landslides have happened in Seattle and where they may take place in the future.

The research found far more earth movement in the city than previously thought, more than 1,400 landslides as of 2005, and 80% of them were at least partially man-made.

Schulz also wrote Seattle's zoning performance indicated "landslide occurrence in Seattle is not fully understood."

However, he added, "regardless of any zoning...landslides are still going to occur."

In addition to Magnolia Bluff, other high landslide areas include the Delridge neighborhood in West Seattle and the Cedar Heights neighborhood in North Seattle.

City planning officials said Monday they deal with building in landslide-prone areas on a case-by-case basis.  Codes are in place to keep ground and homes as secure as possible.

Schulz said all that does is put off an inevitable landslide by hundreds of years.

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