Mercer Island residents evacuated due to landslide risk allowed to return home

Apr 4, 2024, 6:50 AM | Updated: 7:57 pm

mercer island landslide...

One of the signs officials put up on Mercer Island homes to warn of a landslide risk. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

The residents of around 20 homes in Mercer Island who were evacuated overnight Wednesday over concerns of a landslide or flooding in the area were told they could return home Thursday evening.

The city reported the news on its website and in a post on its Facebook page.

The original evacuation order came from the City of Mercer Island and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Wednesday night after a geotechnical engineer detected unstable soil, near 95th Court SE, in the Mercerwood Estates neighborhood and traced it to a leaking water pipe.

“City crews were able to isolate a section of pipe that restricts water flow in the affected area, mitigating the risk of property damage if the water main were to break according to the geotechnical engineer,” a statement from the city reads.

Also, the city’s statement notes that SPU, which owns and maintains the 24-inch high-pressure water pipe that provides water to Mercer Island that caused the soil issue hired a contractor through an “emergency contract” to begin assessing the slope and fixing the water main.

“The next steps in responding and addressing the leak are to excavate above the pipe and actually get eyes on where the water is leaking. That will tell us quite a bit about the fix itself and potentially the cause,” SPU’s Wylie Harper said, according to KIRO Newsradio before the city made its announcement Thursday evening.

Harper added repairs could take several days, but they won’t know for sure until they dig up the pipe.

More Mercer Island news: 2 arrested in connection with Mercer Island man’s murder

The damaged section of the pipe was installed in 1956 and was scheduled to be replaced in the next year or so.

Mercer Island officials and SPU said the threat was limited to the immediate area. The leaking pipe was immediately shut off and water to the island was redirected to a backup, secondary water main.

The water for those on the island is safe to drink as this incident had no impact on water quality.

‘Firemen came to our door’: More on what happened in Mercer Island

The city ordered about two dozen residents downstream of the leak to evacuate Wednesday night.

“At around 9:45 p.m., three firemen came to our door to let us know we were going to be evacuating,” Jackie Tan, a Mercer Island resident, previously told KIRO Newsradio. “I’m worried, uncertain about what’s going to happen the next few days.”

Only those homeowners who were evacuated Wednesday night were affected.

“If you are on Mercer Island and you did not receive a notice to evacuate, you are not at risk and there is no need to evacuate your home,” Mercer Island City Manager Jessi Bon said.

More from Kate Stone: ‘Oso Strong’ memorial completed 10 years after deadly landslide

The Mercer Island Community & Event Center served as a gathering place for evacuated residents and their pets. Most affected families stayed at a hotel in Bellevue.

Initially, there was no timeline for when everyone was able to return to their homes. But during a broadcast featuring Mercer Island Mayor Salim Nice and Bon Thursday afternoon, Bon said some of the homes were deemed “safe” residents who live in those home were able to return. Others had not received word about returning until later.

“I want to say thank you to affected homeowners. We were knocking on their doors about 9:00 last night asking them to leave. Not the greatest time to be knocking on their doors,” Bon said earlier in the day.

Contributing: Kate Stone and James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

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