‘Largest landslide’ in 2 years falls on W. Burnside

Multnomah County

Eastbound lane of West Burnside between Skyline and Barnes closed

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The largest landslide in two years closed West Burnside Friday for the day from Barnes to Skyline.

Portland Bureau of Transportation crews were out at the slide all day to clean up debris. They opened the westbound lane just before 4 p.m. The eastbound lane between Barnes and Skyline will stay closed through Monday. Crews will set up a detour for drivers as they continue the clean up process.

PBOT’s John Brady told KOIN 6 News the landslide was very close to where the large landslide closed West Burnside for an extended time 2 years ago. After that incident, crews put up a retaining wall.

PBOT’s John Brady, January 24, 2020 (KOIN)

“We have to find out how stable exactly the hillside is. That’s one of the tricky things about this. You can clean up that dirt but if the hillside isn’t stable it can come down and we have to make sure there is no risk for that. Our engineers will be out there looking at the hillside. We will clean up the dirt as much as we can and assess from there.”

One issue is whether PBOT needs to bring in extra equipment to stabilize the hillside, which is what happened 2 years ago. Drivers shouldn’t be concerned if they obey all the signs and flaggers.

“If you see a ‘road closed’ sign, obey it. Don’t go around it. You dont know what the road is like,” Brady said. “If you go past the sign, ignore the sign, you are not only endangering yourself, you are endangering our crews. Those signs are there for a reason.”

This time of year is just the start of landslide season. According to Geology Professor Scott Burns with the Portland State University, this event was likely triggered by the recent heavy rainfall.

“It’s when you get concentrated rain in a short period of time—lots of it—that’s when you have the landslides,” said Burns. “Every year is different. Last year, there was hardly a landslide because we didn’t have any big rainfall events. The year before, I think I looked at 60 to 65 different landslides that we had out here.”

According to Burns, landslides are not covered by homeowners insurance.

“You don’t want to pond any water on the side of the slope because what it will do is instigate a landslide,” said Burns.

It’s important for residents to check around their homes to make sure water is properly draining, clear storm drains, ensure there are no broken pipes—especially if they live on a slope.

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