Deep dig may answer questions about Whidbey slide

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. —

Geotechnical engineers have set up a three-story drill along Fircrest Avenue just above a bluff that was blown out by a massive landslide last month.

They drilled down more than 280 feet to collect core samples that may tell them how stable the remaining slope really is.

"The machine causes a lot of vibrations and it's pretty big so we didn't want to get any closer to the scarp for safety reasons," said engineer Aaron Hartvigsen.

The crew spent four days drilling through the county road.  They found sand, silt and unstable layer of saturated clay below sea level.

"That's where the failure likely occurred, is below that level,” said Hartvigsen.

Geotechs said the clay pushed out into Puget Sound then pulled the bluff down with it.

They also hit pockets of water, which show the slope is still unstable.

Some properties have lost another 20 feet since the slide.

Fifty-four samples will be tested by the Department of Natural Resources to determine how much water is trapped and what kind of danger it poses to the neighborhood above.

Residents wonder what the results will really mean to them.

"I have to wonder what we're going to do with the information," said Dick Barker, who lives along the bluff.

He knows the land is moving but has no plans to move himself.

"If I knew that this is going to eventually slide, would I try to get out of here? No," said Barker.

Island County paid about $20,000 for the drill work.

Results should be back in a few weeks.