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Rattlesnake Ridge: Your questions answered

Rattlesnake Ridge: Your questions answered. (Photo courtesy of Steven Mack)

With the Yakima County Emergency Management Teams no longer doing press conferences, we took the most common questions we get on social media and took them to those studying the Rattlesnake Ridge landslide.

Why haven’t they blown up the ridge?

It seems like the easiest way to put this all past us.

Just blow up the ridge force everything to come down and clean up the mess on our own terms.

It's one of the first things Yakima County Emergency Management Teams considered when it came to dealing with the landslide.

But the experts they spoke with said they don't think it's that simple.

"In effort to move this landslide, it would take an immense number of explosives to even have an effect on this landslide, and there may be some unnecessary consequences from that," Senior Emergency Planner Horace Ward said.

Some of the unnecessary consequences include having to put people on an active landslide and drill into it.

Plus, if for some reason the bombs don't blow up as planned, the ridge will be filled with live explosives and no way to take them out safely.

What is the current rate of the slide and is it accelerating?

The Department of Natural Resources has been monitoring the slide since the beginning of the year.

“We still have all the pieces of monitoring equipment up there and they all show that it's still moving at about 1.6 feet per week. The same rate it has been for the last several weeks,” Joe Smillie said.

There have been rates of 1.5 or 1.7 feet a week reported, but Smillie said when you average all the data it's still moving at the average of 1.6 a week.

He said this slide is different than most they see in Washington because of how slow it's moving and the makeup of the ridge itself.

“We have a column of basalt that was built up by lava flow and it's on a thin layer of sediment so that's why it is moving slower,” Smillie said. “It's more of gravity pulling the rock down the hill.”

Why is I-82 still open?

Driving down I-82 you might have wonder if it's safe being so close to the landslide.

Emergency teams said there is no risk, as of right now, when it comes to the highway and The Department of Transportation has a plan to reroute traffic.

“It's moving so slow that, right now there's no risk to travelers on I-82. Dot has a plan in place where the detour route would go off of granger over to 97 and then back up to union gap in both directions,” Emergency Management Director Jeff Emmons said.

Thorp Road right next to I-82 was closed and evacuated right away, but as of right now Emmons doesn't see the slide making its way down to the interstate.

As a safeguard, The Department of Transportation put up large metal containers along Thorp Road to protect I-82 from any rocks that may fall.

While some of Thorp Road has opened for people living there, they will keep the containers there and the rest of the road closed for the time being.

How do I stay up to date with the ridge?

You might not be living right next to the landslide, but we've been getting a lot of comments from people living here in Union Gap and surrounding cities of how they can stay up to date with what's going on.

You can sign up for emergency alerts on the county's website by clicking "notify me" at the top of the page.

Then you can set up for what kind of alerts you want to get.

There are up to five email addresses you can sign up to make sure everyone in your house hold can get them.

And even though the county recently let people move back into their homes off Thorp Road, Emergency teams highly suggest they sign up for alerts and be ready to leave at any time.

"Make sure you have some extra water in the house,” Jeff Pfaff with the Yakima Fire Department said. “Try to make sure that you have some food supplies, because we could lose power there could be things that happen in that small percentage but that great catastrophic thing that could happen at any time."

Which brings us to our final question: will the landslide reach the river?

With the landslide so close to the Yakima River, we've gotten a lot of comments about the danger that poses. It would probably be the worst-case scenario, but also the most unlikely to happen when you combine how far the landslide would need to go and how slow it is moving.

Emmons said that geologists monitoring the slide told him it would take years for it to reach the water.

He said they're watching the landslide to see if it will keep moving south, but as of right now there is no risk of it reaching the river.

“It would have to come south, go over both lanes of 82, up over it and into the river. With moving a foot and a half a week that could take some time and we would see it coming, so that it a really, really, really low risk,” Emmons said.

For more information on Rattlesnake Ridge.

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