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March 29, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Whidbey slide zone off-limits to visitors and tourists

Whidbey Island residents affected by Wednesday’s landslide began returning to their homes on Friday.

Island County officials urged tourists and island visitors stay away from the area, which is in the Ledgewood neighborhood south of Coupeville.

The county sheriff’s department will require identification for anyone trying to reach the area and will allow only residents and county, state and law-enforcement officials through access points. The Ledgewood Neighborhood Association will help identify residents who live there.

“We want to be sure the area is kept secure and safe,” said Bill Oakes, the county’s public works director. “We realize people are interested in seeing the slide, but this weekend we must focus on making sure the slide is stabilized.”

Public works’ crews continue to widen and stabilize a footpath that is now the only way to reach the affected homes. The goal is to provide ATV entry while authorities work on a more permanent solution. They said it could be weeks before a new road replaces one lost in the slide.

People in 35 homes were evacuated because of the slide. Now, only 20 remain affected, either because of structural damage or property loss. All but five homes are open for permanent living. Access to one of them is barred but four can be visited during the day.

More information from Island County officials will be posted on the Twitter feed @IC_DEM and using the hashtag #WhidbeySlide.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources said the slide, one of the largest in the state’s history, is part of a landslide “complex” that measures roughly 1.5 miles long and dates back as many as 11,000 years.

Other large slides in Washington include:

Nile Landslide, Yakima County, 2009;

Aldercrest-Banyon, Cowlitz County, 1998

Carlyon Beach, Thurston County, 1998

Rosary Heights, Woodway, 1997

KM Mountain Landslide, Wahkiakum County, 1990.

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