Heavy rains cause landslide, blocking Whidbey Shores road

Dale Strickland

The long winter and spring of landslides on Whidbey Island resumed on a rainy Monday evening when a hunk of bluff fell across East Point Road in the Whidbey Shores community on Fox Spit, about five miles north of Langley.

The slide was nothing new to Dale Strickland, of South Whidbey’s Dirt Movers, who has moved dirt off the same private road in prior years. He got the call Monday afternoon while enjoying a holiday dinner at his daughter’s house on the mainland.

Strickland arrived at the scene that evening to see a TV crew from KOMO filming the small slide and interviewing a neighbor. He went to work with his excavator and dump truck about 8:30 p.m. and had the narrow road cleared by 2:30 a.m., he said.

But there was still work to do Tuesday, so he arrived early to move more dirt. Later, he planned to bring in rock to stabilize the base. “I’ll put in rock and pound it in, that’ll tighten it up,” he said. But there was still a big bald spot on the bluff where trees had fallen and a threatening overhang of dirt.

The area affected was only 50 to 60-feet wide, but the slide damaged a control box for a water system designed to keep the road dry. Also watching the scene was Dan Deirs, who lives in a safer area near the point, and whose father was a pioneer of sorts.

“My dad was the first one to buy down here,” he said, referring to the Whidbey Shores community that appears to have been built on fill dirt. Deirs has lived there since he was a kid in 1958.

“They should never have built this,” he said, referring to the slide area.

Some 50 waterfront home sit on small lots separated by the high bluff only by the narrow paved road. He said the addition was made in 1968 when the developers “built the bulkhead and took fire hoses to hose down the hill.” He said total valuation of the area created is now $25 million.

The two men were amused that a TV crew from Seattle would come over on a holiday for a small Whidbey slide. “By 10:30 it was on the KOMO website and at 11 it was on TV,” Deirs said. But they understood the interest was related to the huge landslide at Ledgewood Beach earlier this year that took out several homes, made an area inaccessible and created national headlines.

Strickland said he’s had plenty of work this year running from one slide area to another, from Clinton to Anacortes.

Deirs expects there will be more work for Strickland in the future. Looking up at the threatening overhang above East Point Road, he said, “Still, this is not safe.”