We live near Seattle, on Bainbridge Island, which is roughly the size of Manhattan but has a population of only 19,000. As in most small communities, news travels rapidly by word of mouth. We heard about the mudslide about four hours after it happened, on Sunday, January 19, 1997. Our friend Dave told us about it late that morning, as he scuffed his muddy shoes on the mat inside our front door, waiting to pick up his daughter from a sleepover at our house. It was raining—not hard, but steadily. Almost twenty-six inches of precipitation had fallen since the beginning of the rainy season, in October—40 percent above normal—and the ground had been slipping all around the Puget Sound area for weeks. Dave said that the slide had demolished a house in Rolling Bay, a picturesque old neighborhood on the east side of the island, with sweeping views across the sound to the dark glitter of Seattle and the serrated backdrop of the Cascade Mountains. The house was one of about twenty squeezed onto a sliver of beach beneath a high cliff that parallels the Rolling Bay shore. It was owned by a couple who had been remodeling it while… Read full this story
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