Bill Wells

Blocked creek likely caused Johnsons Landing landslide

Terrain stability specialist says water built up and pushed free a chunk of the mountain

The day before the massive landslide in Johnsons Landing, residents noticed the creek wasn’t flowing as usual.

Bill Wells, a Kaslo-based, retired terrain stability specialist and former Johnsons Landing resident, said his friends who live at the top of Johnsons Landing near Gar Creek, noticed the flow of water stopping and starting and a lot of debris in the water.

“They were afraid something was happening, maybe a lake was forming up there,” Wells said.

Judging by the shape of the slide and the fact that it occurred mid slope, Wells thinks the river must have been blocked by debris or a smaller landslide, which caused water to build up until the pressure broke off a chunk of Kootenay Joe mountain.

Initially the slide followed the steep creek bed down of the mountain toward the lake, but some of the larger debris pushed over the bank of the creek and led the slide into the south side of the town, destroying four homes (including one with a family trapped inside) and damaging two other homes.

“It looks like glacier of mud full of big trees that are broken and sticking out of it all the way down,” he said.

The slide area remains highly unstable. A second slide occurred Friday morning and Wells said it could take up to a month for the land to settle.

“All those big, green trees — this time of year the bark slips and breaks off very easily. It’s very unstable and it wants to keep moving,” Wells said.

Wells was on five minutes outside of Johnsons Landing when the slide occurred. He had planned a visit to help a friend with home renovations. After the incident occurred, he paddled a canoe around the shore to get a better look at the scene.

One thing he noticed was that water still wasn’t getting through to the river, which he said could mean it’s continuing to build up.

“It’s very troubling if there’s a big creek of water that can’t get down,” he said. “It could be filling up more pockets of water that will push the land further.”

Ministry of Forests specialists are on scene in Johnsons Landing and, as of Friday afternoon, could not be reached to confirm Wells’ observations.

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