Metro area slammed by landslides putting people's property at ri - KPTV - FOX 12

Metro area slammed by landslides putting people's property at risk

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Landslide near Highway 224 (KPTV) Landslide near Highway 224 (KPTV)
Landslide in West Hills in 2008 (KPTV file image) Landslide in West Hills in 2008 (KPTV file image)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Around the Portland area lately, it seems there’s a new landslide every day.

Just since Sunday, we’ve seen slides on Highway 224, Southwest Skyline Boulevard, Northwest Cornell Road and Highway 26.

If you live near a slope and are concerned about your property, experts say don’t wait to take action; once you see cracks in the ground or other evidence of movement it may be too late.

“The number one thing is water, control the water,” said Scott Burns, a geology professor at Portland State University.

Whenever heavy rain storms hit back-to-back in Portland, the risk goes up. Burns estimates it takes roughly 6 hours for the soil in most areas to dry out.

He recommends checking your property for broken pipes, clogged drains or rainwater runoff that may be pouring back into the ground – that’s a major red flag if you live on or below a hill.

Investigators believe it was a leaky pipe that caused a home in Portland’s West Hills to come crashing down in October of 2008, knocking out two other homes below. 

“Especially in the West Hills of Portland we have steep slopes, very weak soils, add the water and three strikes you’re out,” Burns said.

It’s an issue fresh on the mind of homeowner Preston Bishop, who lives directly above the landslide that happened on Highway 224 on Sunday.

Now, his backyard at the top of the cliff is crumbling away.

He says he’s lost 25 feet already.

“This here was just a crack on Sunday night and Monday morning it collapsed,” Bishop said, pointing at the edge. “This has been a problem. Back in 2010 it lost a little bit. It’s a pretty sheer cliff, so I know there have been a few rocks across the road a time or two but this is by far the biggest.”

When it comes to home insurance policies, you may be surprised to hear that landslides aren’t generally covered.

“Many people feel that, ‘Oh I’ve got homeowners insurance it covers it. No it doesn’t,’” Burns said. “If your house is hit by a landslide or moves down the slope in a landslide, you lose everything.”

Experts with the NW Insurance Council tell FOX 12 even if you have a policy that covers flooding or earthquakes, it likely does
not cover landslides. What you need is a “differences in conditions” policy that covers earth movement. While they may not be available through your homeowner insurance company, contacting your company or agent for guidance is a good place to start.

“If by chance you start seeing cracks in the soil, especially if you’re close to an edge of a slope, get a certified engineering geologist out there immediately because it means things are starting to move,” Burns added.

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