Wash. Couple's Yard Falls Down 200-Foot Cliff, Threatening House

PHOTO: The front yard of a home in Washington has been crumbling away leaving the home in jeopardy of plummeting down a 200-ft. cliff.PlayABC News
WATCH House Poised to Fall Off 200-Foot Cliff

A Washington state couple has spent the last week watching their front yard disappear piece-by-piece and plummet down a 200-foot cliff.

Roy Ballinger and his wife, Rosalee, live on a bluff on Whidbey Island, Wash. Over the past week their front lawn has been falling in chunks, creating a massive hole more than 50 feet wide and 200 feet deep. The 500-year-old tree that used to grace the front yard is now gone.

"All of a sudden, one day, out of God's wonderment, there was this geyser, and it was probably squirting 25, 30 feet in the air," Ballinger told ABC News.

While their home doesn't seem to be in jeopardy just yet, the Ballingers are worried they will lose their wood-working shop and their livelihood.

"I don't think it's going to get to the house, but it sure as hell is going to take out my shop, and that's my pride and joy," Ballinger told ABC affiliate KOMO.

Authorities believe the geyser and the landslide it started may have been caused by either a natural spring changing its course or from erosion after years of abnormally heavy rains.

An Island County (Wash.) hydrologist told ABC News it was rare to have a landslide in summer, and one that happened this fast, especially considering it had not rained for more than a week.

Ballinger spoke hopefully of a geotechnical engineer who thought he could cap the water and redirect it to Puget Sound.

Ballinger's shop -- where he spends his spare time -- is close to the edge and may go with the next chunk. The greenhouse had a hole in the floor where the yard had eroded out from under it.

Friends and family helped Roy Ballinger move things out of his workshop Thursday afternoon, hurrying to contain the damage should the shop fall down the cliff.

"The hardest part was seeing people taking the shop apart because I know how he felt," said Rosalee Ballinger.

Still, the Ballingers were realistic amid a surreal scene. They have moved much of the contents of the guest house into a rented mobile storage shed that is on the property -- on safe ground.

Adding to the danger, the Ballingers have a sunken propane tank that could be dislodged by future slides, creating a fire and explosion hazard. The fire department shut the tank off and pumped out as much of the propane as possible. A family member of the Ballingers told ABC News the couple's insurance would cover the buildings but not the cost of trying to redirect the water.

"We've enjoyed 15 years of living here and we love the view but the question is what will happen and we don't know that," said Roy Ballinger.

Ballinger said he and his wife were seniors and had discussed selling the house and moving closer to Seattle to be closer to doctors. "This will make it a very difficult property to sell," he said.

For now the couple is waiting to find out if their property will be condemned and they will be forced to move.

"We'll just relax for a while and hope that God is kinder to us," said Ballinger.

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