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Originally published January 7, 2009 at 7:28 PM | Page modified January 7, 2009 at 10:25 PM

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Avalanche damages homes east of Snoqualmie Pass summit

A massive avalanche of dirt, snow and trees slammed debris into about eight houses and took out power lines and at least one ski lift on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass summit Wednesday.

Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA — A massive avalanche of dirt, snow and trees slammed debris into about eight houses and took out power lines and at least one ski lift on the east side of the Snoqualmie Pass summit Wednesday.

Two people were rescued from a home severely damaged in the slide. There were no reports of serious injuries.

The slide, estimated at several hundred feet wide, occurred about 11:30 a.m. in the Summit East ski area in Hyak.

"It happened right outside our front door," said Don Whitehouse, a regional administrator with the state Department of Transportation.

Whitehouse was inside the department's Hyak maintenance facility, on the east side of the summit. "There was snow, but it's mostly dirt that slid down the ski slope."

It's believed a landslide triggered the avalanche, which covered most of the ski hill, according to the Kittitas County Sheriff's Office.

At least two houses were significantly damaged while the others saw relatively minor damage, said Matt Cowan, fire chief for Snoqualmie Pass Fire and Rescue.

"Three-quarters of the face has slid down the mountain," said shop owner Terri Harcus.

"It took out a dear friend's home and destroyed the house, a beautiful cabin on the slopes. The whole thing is knocked off, the only thing remaining was the garage," Harcus said.

One of the damaged houses is believed to belong to Norm Craven, who is probably in his early 80s and "has lived up there forever," said Chris Schuler, an avid snowboarder who owns a Hyak condo but lives in Tacoma.

Schuler said he recently had been talking with friends about the possibility of an avalanche at Hyak, which he's visited regularly since 1981.

Asked whether he was worried, he recalled responding, "No way. It's not steep enough."

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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