WENATCHEE — Darald Schall had just fixed his irrigation lines, cleared out a couple of flower beds and pulled up brick pavers that had all been buried when a mudslide hit his No. 1 Canyon home in early August.
With much work still left to do in his besieged yard, he took some vacation time. The day after he left town, a second mudslide in a little over a month hit his neighborhood, covering even more of his yard and home in an even thicker layer of mud and storm debris.
“Now I get to start all over,” he said.
By the time Schall returned home last week, the mud had dried into a rock-hard moonscape completely surrounding his house. Many of his neighbors up and down the canyon and down Fifth Street had already spent the better part of a week clearing driveways, tearing out lawns, uncovering garden beds, replacing irrigation systems and otherwise immersing themselves in the arduous task of mud removal.
To some, it’s becoming an all-too familiar task.
Some homeowners, like Tony and Debi DiTommaso, have been hit by flooding and mudslides at least three times in the last three years.
After the first slide in the summer of 2010, the couple decided to leave the mud in place and put sod on top of it at their Lars Lane home off Fifth Street, Debi DiTommaso said. But when a second slide hit last month, they opted to scrape out the mud and grass and reseed their yard. The young grass was just starting to grow when a third mudslide buried their yard on Sept. 5.
So last week, the mud and grass was once again removed. They still had to repair the irrigation system before planting more seed.
As she gingerly dug mud out from underneath the rose bushes in her front yard, DiTommaso pointed out the muddy mess where her nasturtiums once grew. She also still needed to wash spots of mud out of her front lawn and dig it out of the space between her grass and sidewalk.
She waited nearly a week after the mudslide to do some of the work because “it has to be the right consistency” to get out. Too wet and it’s too runny to do anything with. Too dry and you’d need a jackhammer to get it out.
A couple streets away, on Canyon Place, contractor Ricardo Zaldivar was digging mud out from around trees in a corner yard. The grass had already been scraped out with a tractor from two sides of the home and was going to be replanted.
Zaldivar said hardier bushes and trees can generally survive the mud. But grass and flower beds don’t fare as well and generally must be replaced.
“It’s just a lot of mess to clean up around here,” he said.
Down Fifth Street, contractor Hector Garcia was getting ready to use a tractor to remove mud from a home near the intersection of Canal Street. The mud was still a bit wet but was just starting to crack from drying.
“It’s just right,” he said of the nearly foot of mud that covered much of the yard and inside the garage. He said an array of tools lined up to do the work, including various sizes of shovels, brooms and rakes.
Schall’s once beautifully-landscaped yard was one of the hardest hit by the two recent slides. He had spent years carefully tending the flower beds surrounding his home, as well as many varieties of shrubs and trees. Each of the flower beds was covered with different landscaping materials, including river rock, crushed brick and beauty bark.
An expansive lawn stretched out from his front door and wrapped around the side of his house to the backyard.
When last month’s mudslide washed across his property, it buried his front lawn and flower gardens and packed thick mud underneath his front deck. He hired contractors and estimates and spent about $2,500 tearing out the front deck, uncovering and repairing the irrigation lines and preparing two of his flower beds for replanting.
The front deck was still gone and his grass still covered in a hard layer of mud when the second mudslide hit two weeks ago. This time, the mud also flowed around the side of his house and into his backyard, damaging a fence, covering his entire backyard and garden area at least a foot deep and flowing underneath his back deck as well.
The mud also seeped in his front door, making a mess of his entry way, and broke through his garage doors.
Not a bit of his yard or landscaping escaped the latest slide. And since he didn’t get home from vacation until nearly a week after the storm, the mud is now like concrete.
“And this time it’s all full of debris — rocks and branches and tree parts,” he said. “It’s rock hard. It’s not like you can use a shovel or a rake. You have to have equipment to get this out of here.”
“Heck, where do I even start?” he asked.
He decided to start with his driveway, clearing and grading it and then laying down gravel before winter. He also plans to build a retaining wall along the entire western edge of his yard to divert water and mud in any future storm events.
“Do I want to deal with this every time we have a storm?” he said. “Not really. I can’t afford to replace garage doors and decks and hire contractors every time we get a hard rain.”
He added, “I work very hard on my yard. I pride myself on my yard. And now, after all the years I’ve put into it, I have to start completely over.”