Washington State Landslide Tragedy

March 26, 2014

On Saturday, March 22nd around 10:40 am a 1-square-mile mudslide in the Cascade foothills along the Stillaguamish River occurred.  Rain soaked embankments unexpectedly gave way and slid into the towns of Oso and Darrington, Washington.

According to the National Weather Service the area has had double its normal rainfall in the past 45 days which is around 15 inches higher than normal, this heavy saturation most likely caused the land to become unstable and give way.

This massive landslide has caused terrible devastation to the people in these towns.  Oso is reported to have a population of about 180, and Darrington to have a population of 1,350. In these towns many houses have been buried under some 30- to 40-feet of mud. It was being reported as of this morning by CNN and USA Today that as many as 176 people were still missing, and an official death toll of 16.  Rescue teams are continuing to search for the missing. This shocking tragedy weighs heavy on our hearts.

This has caused others who reside on hills and near cliff sides in rainy Western Washington to question how to cover their homes if there were to be a landslide or mudslide. Do you need a Flood policy, an Earthquake policy, or something else?

Would a Flood Policy cover it?

A Flood policy would cover mudflow damage as long as the mud is carried by a river or stream of water. So, if a dam breaks and picks up a hillside and carries it into your home then it should be covered. Of course to be deemed a flood more than 2 acres or 2 properties would also need to be involved.  However, a flood policy would not cover damage if a hillside becomes saturated as a result of rainfall and slowly begins to move downhill. Mudflows are covered by flood insurance—mudslides are not.

Here are the FEMA definitions per Floodsmart.gov:

Mudflows v. Mudslides
A mudflow is a flooding condition where a river of liquid and flowing mud moves on the surface of normally dry land areas. Mudflows are different from mudslides, in which a dry or wet mass of earth or rock moves downhill. Though a flood may trigger a landslide, damage is caused by the falling mass of rock or earth, not the water.”

Would an Earthquake policy cover it?

Sliding ground is earth movement so this should be covered under an Earthquake policy right?

Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be covered by your Earthquake policy. Why?  Most earthquake policies specifically exclude for landslide.  So what can a homeowner concerned with protecting their home for landslide/mudslide do?

Consider a Difference in Conditions Policy.

What is a Difference In Conditions Policy?

A Difference in Conditions (DIC) Policy is designed to to provide catastrophe protection for certain losses not generally covered by standard homeowner policies such as flood, earthquake, and landslide.

These policies are generally written to cover all risks of physical loss or damage from any external cause, including flood or earthquake, except coverage is not provided for loss or damage directly or indirectly caused by a peril covered in Section I of a standard Homeowners Policy Form 3, or other perils excluded in the policy. It will not cover what your homeowners policy already covers. It is meant to broaden or cover the gaps a standard home policy leaves you with.

Are you interested in this type of policy?

If so give us a call at 425-228-7406, for a free no obligation quote with the Homeowners Catastrophe Insurance Trust (HCIT).