Local contractor Brad Schwend received a call on Friday, March 14 from a person hiking Wisconsin Creek who reported damage to a cabin Schwend built in October 2004. The cabin, which is used as a summer home by a couple residing in Virginia, was directly in the path of a boulder, which came off a cliff and picked up speed.
Schwend said the rock is approximately 6 foot by 8 foot by 12 foot—in his words it “looks like a Subaru station wagon parked in the basement.”
When Schwend arrived on-scene, the propane line was loose and leaking into the basement and electrical wires were jerked free.
“Luckily there was no explosion,” Schwend said. “It took out the whole bathroom and demolished the house. It hit so hard it even knocked kitchen cabinets off the wall.”
Steve DiGiovanna, deputy director of emergency management for Madison County, said an incident like what happened to the Wisconsin Creek cabin is nearly impossible to predict. DiGiovanna did, however, cite signs of impending mud or landslides landowners should watch out for.
“Trees leaning more than usual, fences tilting, those are signs of a landslide,” DiGiovanna said. “If you notice cracks in your plaster or bricks, that’s another indicator.”
DiGiovanna is not an expert, but has seen enough land and mudslides to recognize the obvious warning signs. He added to look out for spontaneously cracking windows and debris gathering or the ground bulging at the base of a slope.
“When people build near steep faced rock walls, they need to be aware falling rock may be a risk,” he said. “The obvious answer is it’s next to impossible to predict.”