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Relief at last coming to Skyview Estates neighbors
Community residents saw their road destroyed in a February landslide


Photo courtesy Samantha Idle

Work being done during September at the Skyview Estates landslide site.



MONROE —
Nearly nine months after a mudslide disrupted their only way home, a community of 120 people is putting things back to normal.
The big step forward, with a first whoosh of relief, came Aug. 29 when backhoes began stabilizing the hill. Up next, as soon as this week, repair work starts on the only road in and out for the 44 homeowners in the Skyview Estates neighborhood east of Monroe. One-third of the road fell away when a slide happened the afternoon of Feb. 6.
Early on, the residents hoofed it by ATV and by foot on a long trek up the curvy, unstable 260th Avenue SE. They parked along Ben Howard Road as there was no other choice. Since May, lightweight cars began being allowed to travel the road.
This is not a publicly funded project. The route is a private road, and the price to fix it, estimated at more than $1 million, is upon the neighborhood. An Internet fundraiser brought in $10,000, but the rest is coming from neighbors’ pockets.
That big step Aug. 29 could be seen as overcoming the odds.
“Seeing the equipment on-site, it felt like a kid on Christmas morning,” Samantha Idle said.
She’s on the neighborhood’s road maintenance board that normally arranges road de-icing and plowing, never something like this.
Since day one, the board went into constant communication, member Korren Karahalios said.
The community stuck like glue to avoid the potential of being stuck stranded.
It “brought us together in a lot of ways,” Idle said.
Each neighbor contributed their own specialties, resident Desiree Contessa said. Neighbors shuttled children to the bus stop on side-by-side ATVs before COVID-19 closed schools. Another neighbor used his machinery to cart small propane tanks up ­— an important lifeline as almost every household on the mountain relies on propane.
But the first big test of living without a road was when the Contessas’ young son got seriously injured.
A woman from the neighborhood abutting Skyview “grabbed her 4 seater side by side (ATV),” and with resident Amy Hoyt, they went down to pick up the EMT medics at the base of the hill and bring them up, Contessa said, “and when the time came, they brought my son down the hill with his dad.”
The EMTs arrived to find experienced firefighters Ken and Jeanna Hopkins working the situation ­— they live on the next street over.
“I don’t know if you believe, but I think a higher power stepped in,” Contessa said on how it all pulled together.
People bought homes on the mountain for the relaxation and privacy it offers on five-acre country parcels.
County Councilman Sam Low praised the neighborhood’s resilience. Since the morning after, when county emergency management, public works and himself convened to assess, the county has been working to advise the neighborhood.
“It was impressive for me to see how everyone reacted so quickly, and the hard part was the (Skyview Estates) community putting it on their shoulders,” Low said.
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene sought federal FEMA disaster assistance funding this summer for them, but the request didn’t get fulfilled.
The outpouring of support has been really heartwarming, Idle said.
Contessa chalked it up to Monroe’s kindness: “It’s amazing how a small town comes together,” Contessa said. “How can we help and what can we do, and that’s Monroe, that’s a small town.”
What happened showed an example of the county’s slide risks. Snohomish County’s geology is the devil.
The winter snow saturates the soil, begging to let loose during heavy rain. For example, the morning of the Skyview slide, a different slide happened in the High Rock community south of Monroe.
“Those soils were laid down by the glaciers, it’s like a ‘dirty layer cake’,” explained Scott North, the spokesman for the county’s Department of Emergency Management.
The county doubled down on documenting slide risks after the infamous Oso mudslide in March 2014, where 43 residents of the Steelhead Haven neighborhood died.
The website to check your property’s risk is www.sno
homishcountywa.gov/3681/Landslide-Hazard-Area
Ben Howard Road, between Monroe and Sultan, is dotted by a few roads that serve mountain communities such as Skyview Estates. Another is the River King Estates, a more populated community that spiders out from two road access points.
At Skyview, returning to normal will be a relief.
If all goes well, it’s going to be “really nice going into winter” with the road in place and the hill bolstered with a wall, Idle said. “Not having that fear is important.”

Fundraiser still active
The fundraiser to assist with repair costs on GoFundMe.com is called “SkyView Estates Landslide Disaster Relief Fund” and it is organized by Desiree Contessa.





Photo courtesy Samantha Idle

Work being done during September at the Skyview Estates landslide site.

  

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