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Slide hammers houses at Possession

The summer home owned by Morgan and Laurie Bartlett is considered a total loss as the landslide pushed it off its foundation, twisted the structure and ripped off the bathroom, which splattered on the beach below.  - Jim Larsen / The Record
The summer home owned by Morgan and Laurie Bartlett is considered a total loss as the landslide pushed it off its foundation, twisted the structure and ripped off the bathroom, which splattered on the beach below.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / The Record

A sizable landslide at Possession Point Wednesday afternoon destroyed one summer home and damaged another.

A two-bedroom cabin owned by Bellingham residents Morgan and Laurie Bartlett was knocked off its foundation by tons of mud and trees. Its twisted remains sat precariously on a ledge high above a bulkhead, but the bathroom portion was gone. A medicine cabinet below the concrete bulkhead spilled out its contents, and on the beach further toward the water was the paneling, drywall and other debris that once comprised the bathroom.

Neighbors said they had just spent $30,000 fixing it up and that insurance isn’t available in such a slide-prone area.

The Bartletts weren’t there when the slide happened nor on Thursday morning when the owners of the neighboring house, Lake Stevens residents Glenn and Karen VanProvone, started what looked like an endless task of cleaning up.

Their home wasn’t destroyed, but one corner including the roof was covered by muck, the chimney was knocked off, alder branches stuck out everywhere like crazy decorations, and a  storage building was ruined. Glenn pried the door open with a crow bar and starting handing stuff out to Karen, including an American flag they proudly fly in the summer.

The soaking wet and incredibly heavy clay mud and sand that had destroyed the Bartletts’ house stopped just behind the VanProvones’, but it took out the power and water supply and covered the back yard in several feet of muck, climbing partway up the back of the house.

“Two years ago there was another slide above the trees and I worked two years to clean it up,” Glenn said. “I’m getting tired of digging.” He was hoping this would be a summer of easy waterfront living instead of disposing of landslide material.

The area hit by the landslide is called The Cove by its few residents, and it’s separated by about a quarter mile from a long line of waterfront homes at the end of Possession Road. The road itself cuts across and down the steep bluff and a sign warns drivers of possible landslides.

The homes are all accessible either by walking or boating. The community shares a sidewalk. Glenn VanProvone walked to his home, got his boat and motored back to the parking lot to pick up his wife, along with a chainsaw and provisions for the day. They had no intention of spending a night sleeping beneath the ominous bluff.

Walking the mile from the road end to The Cove, numerous smaller slides were evident and the beach at high tide was nearly impassable due to toppled trees. A group of women walkers, the Whidbey Striders from the Senior  Center, had to turn back due to the high water and alder barriers.

When Karen VanProvone stepped out of the boat, what she saw was worse than  she had expected. “It’s worse, a lot worse, than I thought,” she said. She went to work picking up and piling branches, with an attitude of resignation that you have to start somewhere.

Walking toward the wreckage were Darrell and Susan Posch, who have lived for decades in the relative safety of the other side of Possession Point Road, near Possession Beach Park. Darrell Posch, a retired school teacher, has seen numerous slides through the years. The biggest he recalled was around three decades ago when a huge hunk of sliding cliff hit the water. “It caused a mini-tsunami all along the beach,” he said.

Living nearer to this year’s slide is Russ Clingingsmith, who owns an attractive log home not too far from the end of the sidewalk and the bare beach that leads to The Cove. He wasn’t home for the slide but spent Wednesday night there.

He described the night as a scary one. “It’s still active,” he said of the slide area. “There were trees cracking in the middle of the night. At 3:30 a.m. I heard another slide.” Then he cracked a smile, adding, “It doesn’t get any better, view-wise.”

Indeed, the homes in the Possession community and the nearby Cove have a tremendous view to the east and Mukilteo, which itself has been plagued by slides this year. What looked like a miniature trained chugged along south  of Mukilteo on track that has been buried in mud numerous times this year.

The VanProvones have no regrets, having spent 28 summers at their second home. Their front yard is Puget Sound, with its fine clamming, crabbing and salmon fishing. It was a great place for their two kids and now, it’s a great place for their seven grandchildren.

“The memories never go away,” said Karen VanProvones, pausing for a moment  from her work. “When the sun shines and the tide’s out he grandchildren love it.”

If Glenn can only keep digging, more great memories will likely be made this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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