by Ben Adlin
Editors’ Note: This article is being updated live as we receive new information about the developing situation. ***Last updated: 3/1/2022 at 3:45 p.m.
Rainier Avenue partially reopened Tuesday afternoon, March 1, following a pair of landslides caused by recent wet weather. Traffic had been shut down since Monday in both directions along a portion of the South Seattle thoroughfare due to debris blocking the roadway and sidewalks.
No injuries or property damage related to the landslides have been reported, a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) representative told the Emerald.
The first landslide happened at 9600 Rainier Ave. S., near Chinook Beach Park, on Monday afternoon. A second occurred just south of the first, by the Stonehouse Café.
“We had to close our restaurant because traffic both ways was cut off,” the Stonehouse Café’s owner, LeeAnn Subelbia, told the Emerald.
Subelbia said that while she’s not aware of any property damage or injuries caused by the landslides, the resulting road closure has already cost the café money.
SDOT said in a press release Tuesday morning that it was working “around the clock” to reopen the street. Because the ground can remain unstable after a landslide, the department consulted with geologists to determine when it’s safe to clear debris and reopen the roadway.
Subelbia’s husband, Dan Bent, who visited the landslide near the café, said that it appeared a tree that fell during one of the landslides had damaged a nearby retaining wall. “They’re not sure how much pressure is behind that, so they’re waiting for the engineers to come out and assess,” Bent said. “They’re going to have to fix that wall, I’m sure.”
SDOT has been posting updates to the landslide-related closures on its Twitter account, @SDOTtraffic. Additional information about street closures citywide, including live camera feeds, is available at SDOT’s so-called Travelers Map. No cameras are in place along the affected part of Rainier Avenue.
Washington’s February was an especially rainy one, and Monday’s storm was one of the wettest in decades, with some parts of the region getting more than 4 inches of rain over the past two days, according to National Weather Service data.
Though the region gets frequent rainfall, heavy downpours increase the risk of landslides. In January, a landslide in a residential part of Magnolia moved one house “15–20 feet off its foundation,” trapping one resident inside and sparking a propane fire.
Washington is one of the most landslide-prone states in the country, according to the State Department of Natural Resources. Citing data from 1996, the department’s website says landslides kill roughly 25 to 50 people annually and cause an estimated $2 billion in damage.
Ben Adlin is a reporter and editor who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives on Capitol Hill. He’s covered politics and legal affairs from Seattle and Los Angeles for the past decade and has been an Emerald contributor since May 2020, writing about community and municipal news. Find him on Twitter at @badlin.
📸 Featured Image: Landslide near 9600 Rainier Ave. S., near Chinook Beach Park. Photos courtesy of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
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