Valdosta Daily Times

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March 28, 2013

Washington island landslide affects 34 homes

SEATTLE — Some residents evacuated from hillside homes on Washington state’s Whidbey Island after a large landslide are being told they can return, now that geologists have taken a preliminary look at the area.

One house was knocked off its foundation and 33 others were evacuated after the slide hit early Wednesday. Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin says residents of 15 homes were told Wednesday evening they could return if they wished.

No injuries have been reported.

Hartin says emergency personnel evacuated a resident from the damaged home by all-terrain vehicle, reaching him by cutting across property owned by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The chief says Ballmer’s home and property are not threatened.

Residents of a hillside overlooking scenic Puget Sound heard the thunder of a large landslide Wednesday that knocked one home off its foundation, and isolated or threatened more than two dozen others on Whidbey Island, about 50 miles north of Seattle.

After geologists made a preliminary assessment, residents of about 15 homes higher up the hillside were told Wednesday evening that they could return, said Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Hartin. Seventeen homes were evacuated along that road and officials are still concerned about two, Hartin said.

An older man who escaped from the damaged home was evacuated by rescuers in an all-terrain vehicle, Hartin said. Rescuers reached the man by cutting across property owned by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer's property was not threatened by the slide, the chief said.

Ballmer was not available for comment, Microsoft spokesman Pete Wootton said Wednesday night.

Some people were completely cut off from their properties.

Many of the homes are summer cabins or weekend getaways and were unoccupied. Some are larger, upscale properties and others are more modest dwellings.

Eleven people from 16 homes along a road close to the water were evacuated by boat because the road was blocked by the landslide, Hartin said.

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