Winter wonderland replaced by Pineapple Express damage

January 7, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

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The heavy rain that assaulted the city the weekend of Dec. 11-12 caused a landslide off Newcastle Golf Club Road. City crews were forced to use almost 1,400 tons of rock to stabilize the hillside. By Tim Pfarr

In the wake of the snow and ice that pounded Newcastle just before Thanksgiving, a balmy Pineapple Express weather system blew into the area the weekend of Dec. 11 and 12, dumping more than three inches of rain on the city, according to the National Weather Service.

The wet conditions caused a landslide off Newcastle Golf Club Road and flooding in numerous locations across the city.

The landslide

Motorists traveling on Newcastle Golf Club Road first notified city officials of the landslide at about 9 a.m. Dec. 13. The slide had begun just feet off the north side of the road and spilled several hundred feet down the hillside.

City crews closed the road between 136th and 155th avenues southeast Dec. 13 after inspecting the site, because a natural gas line runs through the area. City workers and contractors dumped almost 1,400 tons of rock on the slide to temporarily stabilize the hillside Dec. 14, and the city reopened the road Dec. 15. The three days of worked racked up a bill of about $60,000.

City Manager Rob Wyman said the temporary fix should keep the hill stabilized through the summer, although city staff and Puget Sound Energy officials are inspecting the hillside daily using survey pins that detect movement as small as fractions of an inch.

Wyman said the city is now working with engineering contractor Gray & Osborne to design and install a permanent fix to the hillside, which will likely be a concrete wall. The permanent fix will likely cost between $400,000 and $650,000, he said.

The Newcastle and Bellevue property line is about five feet off the north side of the road at the location of the slide, and most of the slide occurred on Bellevue property. Wyman met with officials from Bellevue at the end of December to discuss financial contributions for the repair.

Although Newcastle would bear the full cost of the project without Bellevue’s assistance, he said the city is seeking emergency management funds from various sources, including the county and state, to pay for most or all of the long-term repair.

Flooding

As the rain fell, China Creek raged with water, rocks and sediment, dumping into the north end of Lake Boren. The heavy flow caused water levels to rise and flood residents’ yards and basements.

One resident who was forced to battle the rising water was Gerald Roux. Even after water levels began to subside, he spent much of the day Dec. 14 in rubber boots attempting to remove some of the silt from the creek’s inflow into the lake. Much of it had accumulated on residents’ lawns.

“I was just astounded by the amount of debris that came down the creek,” he said that day. “None of these rocks were here until Sunday.”

Roux’s basement flooded when the water levels reached their peak, and he was forced to pump the water out before it damaged his furnace.

Rocks from the creek also piled up on resident Robin Peterson’s lawn.

“I had a beautiful yard here and it’s going to take a lot of work to get it back where it should be,” he said.

Wyman said the city requested clearance from the state Department of Fish & Wildlife to perform emergency dredging on the lake’s inflow and outflow, but both requests were denied.

A home’s driveway on Southeast 89th Place also flooded, as the home’s property contains a wetland and is on a shallow point in the land that collects water.

City Development Engineer Kerry Sullivan said the property has a pipe to remove water, but city staff and the property’s developer found that the pipe’s outflow was buried four feet underground. Sullivan said they used water jetting to clear the outflow.

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