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Experts now uncertain of when Rattlesnake Ridge landslide will fall

Experts now uncertain of when Rattlesnake Ridge landslide will fall (Photo: Steven Mack)

UNION GAP, Wash. - A landslide on Rattlesnake Ridge is now moving at a steady rate, but experts say it is not clear when the landslide will fall.

Landslide movement has not accelerated, and is moving at a rate of 1.6 to 1.7 feet per week, Emergency Management Director Jeff Emmons said at a press briefing given January 23.

Emmons spoke on the uncertainty in predicting the amount of time it would take for the 20 acres of land to fall. Emergency Management officials previously anticipated the landslide event would occur by late March of 2018.

"The current prediction is it's going to keep moving at this rate for a while, don't know what that 'for a while' means," Emmons said. "Couple months, but this is going to be a wait and see and monitor it."

The Office of Emergency Management is also re-evaluating a worst-case scenario for the landslide, as rockfall would not likely block the Yakima River completely.

At this time, some rocks have been pushed into the quarry pit. No large amounts of rocks have fallen onto Thorp Road, where people have evacuated their homes, according to emergency officials.

Emmons said although the slide is not moving faster, it's still moving and safety precautions need to be taken.

He said the emergency management team is still noticing people trespass on the ridge which is not only unsafe for them but he said that can interfere with data collection. He said the only people that should be on the ridge are the professionals.

Meghan Lott, of the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said workers are monitoring the area at all times for any movement or changes.

"We do have a safety protocol so if anyone goes out to Thorp Road or goes near the landslide, they go in pairs," Lott said. "They also talk to our traffic management center to let them know they're going out there and they are supposed to report back once they're done with their activity out in the field."

Officials said a section of I-82 along the ridge is safe to drive, but WSDOT has planned routes in case of a catastrophic event. If I-82 closed, traffic would be detoured at US 97 from Granger to Union Gap.

Emmons is urging families of the county to prepare for the disaster if they haven't already.

"Preparedness actions they can take is get a two week preparedness kit, develop a communication plan with their family and review their insurance coverage," he said.

Geologists continue to study the area and are monitoring for any slide activity.

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