3 Sinkholes Threaten Homes

Gary Danielson pulled up to his Everett home yesterday morning after three weeks out of town to be greeted by yellow caution tape.

He worried that something violent had happened.

Then he noticed that his Japanese maple in his back yard had disappeared. And there were other casualties.

"The neighbor - it ate his Mustang," Danielson said. "Farther down, it almost gobbled an 80-foot maple."

It's no horror flick. The sinkholes in Snohomish County showed up last week - at least three of them, creating huge holes in the back yards of two homes in the 2400 block of Del Campo Drive in the Eastmont neighborhood.

Each sinkhole measures up to 25 feet wide and 60 feet deep.

Tim Walsh, a geologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, warned yesterday that residents should leave their homes in the southeast Everett neighborhood.

Heavy rain could bring more sinkholes, Walsh said.

Mike McCallister, coordinator for Snohomish County's Department of Emergency Management said that water apparently found its way beneath a layer of clay about 40 to 60 feet underground and started to erode the soil.

The weight of additional water above may have caused the collapse, he said.

All of the Eastmont neighborhood, which was platted about 40 years ago, drains into nearby Woods Creek, which runs behind the homes of Danielson and a next-door neighbor, James Tholen.

Tholen had been storing his newly married son's restored 1966 Mustang in a carport. But at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, he noticed his carport beginning to slope behind his home.

"I thought, `What's going on?' I walked in the back yard to see why. I was dumbfounded. I called my wife. `You gotta come see this.' "

She did. "The ground went out from under it," Norma Tholen said.

"And it went in nose first."

The Tholens built the house 36 years ago.

By late last night, nobody had been evacuated. Snohomish County officials said they were weighing whether to require neighborhood residents to leave.

Danielson said he doesn't plan on leaving. He checked the inside of his home for surface cracks and the outside for foundation movement.

"Actually, I'm not too nervous," he said. "Personally, I don't feel imminent danger at this point."

Danielson bought his home, a gray 2,500-square-foot rambler, more than nine years ago. He's never had problems like this, he said.

His Japanese maple tree was a gift from a friend in Mill Creek about four years ago. The tree had grown to about 18 feet.

Now there's no trace of it.

McCallister, from Emergency Management, said that officials plan to take soil samples to try to determine how porous the soil is and check for air pockets.

The solution, Walsh said, could be pumping out the underground water, or channeling waters away.

Meanwhile, everybody is just walking cautiously.

"We need help. No doubt about it. This is not a backyard situation," Tholen said.