Story last updated at 1:21 p.m. Thursday, November 28, 2002

Mudslides sweep Thurston Canyon, elsewhere
by Chris Bernard
Staff Writer

Saturday's rains triggered mudslides along East End Road over the weekend, including one that thundered down Thurston Canyon, putting several homes in jeopardy and burying much of the landscape under chest-deep mud.

Residents described the slide in similar terms to a lava flow, moving slowly down the side of a volcano.

"The whole hillside gave way," said Kate Mitchell, who lives on Bradley Road in the neighborhood. "It moved down the road and would have been in our house if something hadn't caught it and diverted it into a swale, where it dug about a 4-foot deep creek and went clear down the field."

Mitchell said she saw the first signs of the slide Saturday morning. She and her family began moving four-wheelers and snowmachines out of the back yard in case it continued toward their house.

"From the back yard you could hear it, and it sounded like a freight train," she said. "From the front porch, you could see it. It was in slow motion, just coming down and carrying trees with it."

A full-grown cottonwood tree mired in deep mud in Mitchell's yard bears testament to the power of the slide.

"It was just kind of watching Mother Nature do her thing," said neighbor Lisa Gerard. "It sloughed off and just came down in a bug gush of muck and trees and went right into our pretty field."

Gerard said the mudslide had a roar to it as it moved.

"It was kind of like slow motion, but it was actually moving pretty fast if you think about it," she said. "It moved down and took out our neighbor's private drive."

More slides happened in the same area on Sunday, taking out the road. Mitchell, Gerard and other neighbors have been fording the creek to get to their homes, which were without power for the weekend.

"Our uphill neighbors, with small children, they have it the worst," Mitchell said. "They're stuck in their home. He's been sliding out in hip waders to bring in groceries. But they've got no phone, no power.

"The borough was supposed to come and push some mud off the road so they could get out, but they didn't make it. Of course, they have other emergencies going on."

Borough Road Service Area Director Gary Davis said crews were clearing and rebuilding the roads.

"We're bringing gravel in and doing what we can," he said. Residents stranded by the mudslide were reached by Tuesday afternoon.

Davis estimated the mud had traveled one-half to three-quarters of a mile.

"There's a 15-foot gully on Glacierview Drive that's completely full," he said. "You can't even tell there's a gully there, the mud is that deep."

Chris Bernard can be reached at cbernard@homernews.com.

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