Landslides Cause Never-Ending Nightmares for Clatsop County Residents
Cheryl Mattson’s husband, Ken, was home alone on February 22nd, when the world, quite literally, crashed in on him. He, and their home in Astoria, located below Blue Ridge and across the street, was spared, but it damaged several vehicles, blocked the road, and has made a good portion of their lot unusable. Cheryl has made a down payment on a tiny home she wanted to make an ADU on her land, but her dream of a “Cheryl’s She Shed” is no longer possible. The area where she planned to put it is now an unstable pile of debris and mud. The road is blocked off, and they have lost thousands of dollars in assets and land value. Worst of all, they no longer feel safe, and none of the damage is covered by insurance!
Landslides aren’t a new phenomenon in Clatsop County. In fact, over half of Astoria is prone to shallow landslides, according to the state’s Department of Geology and Mineral Industries who have developed a landslide zone map of the area. According to them, more than one-third of the region is susceptible to deep landslides. Over the past 150 years, at least 80 landslides have hit the city. Still, landslides may not be all that uncommon in the area, but when they happen to you, it’s personal!
Images courtesy of Daily Astorian Photographer Hailey Hoffman
Cheryl says the problem really started a couple of years ago when the Mossberg Estate burnt down. The city let the fire smolder for days, repeatedly spraying water on the hill and over-saturating the ground. All that water washed down onto the Mattson’s property, along with a mini slide that filled the drainage ditches until they overflowed. The city rerouted buses and closed off the road, but that was about it.
Now, as it rains more and more, mud continues to flow down the hill and across the street onto her land. So far, the only solution the city has attempted is some sandbags, and that’s not cutting it. Ken and Cheryl feel like it’s only a matter of time before another landslide occurs, but where would they go? Their home is paid for, and Cheryl owns Third Dimension Salon, so they don’t want to move, and they shouldn’t have to.
What used to be a beautiful view across the street is now a gaping hole that developed after the fire in 2019. And the gap is getting more extensive as the ground continually shifts. Cheryl has reached out for help to many officials, including the police, the Mayor, Nathan Crater (who is with Public Works for the city of Astoria), U.S Congressional Representative Suzanne Marie Bonamici, and Senator Betsy Johnson. No one can offer any help, and they are running out of time.
Bonamici said Tongue Point Job Corps is responsible for maintaining the first 40 feet of the unstable area and referred Cheryl to the Department of Labor, who manages Tongue Point Job Corps. But so far, it hasn’t led to any significant clean-up or stability efforts. The Department of Labor says they are working to put money in the budget to fix it, but that could be too late if it’s even approved.
Cheryl knows she is not alone. Other homeowners in the area are dealing with similar problems. Catie Foss and her family have been permanently displaced after a mudslide pushed their beloved home 15 feet off its foundation in the Alameda neighborhood. They were lucky they made it out in time. Caring neighbors have rallied together to try and raise money to help the displaced family.
Unfortunately, it looks like landslides are becoming more common in the area. It’s vital to be vigilant if you live on or near a steep slope. Keep a lookout for warning indicators of landslides by regularly evaluating your property for signs of any movement.
These are some warning signs of potential landslide activity:
Outside Your House
- Standing water
- Changes in surface drainage
- Bulges retaining walls
- Cracks or sinkholes developing in the ground
- Bent trees
- Broken water, utility, or sewer lines
- Cracks in sidewalks or foundation
- Stretched or leaning utility lines
Inside Your House
- Bulging walls
- Separation of the chimney from walls
- Creaking/popping noises
- Light switches coming out of walls
- Doors and windows become hard to shut
- Cracks in walls
- Nails popping out of walls
- Twisted beams
- Cracks in the floors
- Water seeping into your basement
The Mattson’s have now hired an attorney to help them determine if they have any legal recourse for all the damage to their property and the associated expenses and loss. They feel the city or county should have been more proactive after the slide in 2019. They hope to stay in their home, but every day that goes by, that becomes less likely.