La Conchita Landslide Survivors Reflect in Wake of Washington Disaster

Many of the homes destroyed by the 2005 La Conchita landslide are fenced off and covered in weeds

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For residents of La Conchita, the deadly mudslide in Washington bears shades of resemblance to a 2005 mudslide that devastated the Ventura County community. Lolita Lopez reports on the town s recovery efforts since the disaster for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. (Published Wednesday, Mar 26, 2014)

    In the wake of the deadly mudslide in Washington state, many residents of the Southern California town of La Conchita are reflecting on the 2005 landslide that claimed the lives of 10 people and left the town devastated.

    Today, many residents of the coastal community between Ventura and Santa Barbara say they are still recovering. Reminders of the landslide that killed neighbors and damaged or destroyed close to 40 homes are everywhere. Many homes remain fenced off and abandoned.

    For longtime residents Charles Elsass and Ernie Garcia, it is difficult to forget that January day. Some residents said they had between 15 and 20 seconds to run from the mud and debris rushing down the hillside.

    News reports of the avalanche of dirt and debris that hit Arlington, Wash., a small community 55 miles east of Seattle, were all too familiar.

    “I just feel sorry for those people because I know what they’re going through,” Garcia said.

    But that wasn’t the first time Elsass and Garcia lived through a landslide. Both survived another in 1995.

    Many La Conchita homes destroyed by the mudflow are covered by weeds. Ventura County has mandated owners of abandoned properties to cut down overgrowth under a program designed to reduce fire hazards. If nothing is done, fines will be place on owners’ taxes.

    Despite the constant reminders and apprehension of another landslide, people keep coming to live in the community of ocean views and quiet breezes.

    “This is heaven,” Garcia said.

    Most homeowner policies won’t cover landslides, mudslides or mudflow.

    Neither Garcia nor Elsass own landslide insurance because it’s too expensive. But after living in La Conchita for three decades and surviving two landslide, they still see no reason to pack their bags.

    “I don't really want to leave,” Elsass said.