10.5 Inches of Rain = Landslides!

During the rainy season in Costa Rica, you expect to get rain (duh!).  But when good ol’ Mother Nature dumps 10.5 inches in just four or five hours, well that’s a lot of rain and so stuff happens.  It started mid-afternoon on Thursday, August 25.  We were coming back home from our friend Helen’s birthday party in Tinamastes. Heavy rain fell hard and steady, but it had let up some by the time we reached home.  Out of curiosity, I checked our rain gauge. It read 5.7 inches, and since it only holds six inches, I emptied it.  The lull didn’t last long and the rain picked up again.  It couldn’t have been much more than an hour later when I noticed that the rain gauge had another three inches recorded.  Wow!

About then it was beer o’clock, and as I headed to the beer fridge to grab a cold one, I heard Ellen scream, “Eddie, come here!  There’s water coming in!”  I ran inside to see muddy water coming in underneath the front and side doors.  OMG, in just seconds, the kitchen floor was flooded and water was heading into the living room.  WTF!  This can’t be happening!, I thought.  As I ran outside to investigate, Ellen grabbed every towel she could find to try and stop the mucky water from advancing further.  The carport and front entrance were a flooded, muddy mess.  Water, mud and gravel were streaming down the driveway towards the house.  Then I saw what had caused this disaster…a portion of the hillside above the driveway had slide down covering most of the driveway and the drainage canal that runs alongside it.  With the drainage ditch blocked, the water was diverted across the driveway and into the carport and entryway of the house.  I grabbed a shovel and began making a dike to direct the water away from the house towards another drain at the back of the parking area.  Soon, I managed to get the water flow under control and ran back inside to help Ellen.

At this point, it was about 5:30 and starting to get dark.  Then, as luck would have it, the power went out.  So, with flashlights and candles to light our way, we spent the next several hours mopping up as best we could, still in shock as to what had happened.  The next morning, we went out to survey the damage.  On our property, we found a second landslide had occurred on the slope below the pool.


Landslide on the driveway



Landslide below the pool deck


Clean up crew…they’re awesome!


We have a neighborhood WhatsApp group and were alerted to the fact that there were several landslides on our mountain road, one of which took out an electricity pole.  ICE, the power company, was called and we also made arrangements for a backhoe to come in the morning to start digging us out.  Thankfully, the rain soon tapered off and finally stopped falling around 8 pm.


The situation on our mountain road was very bad.  There were major landslides in four different sections that completely covered the road.  The backhoe worked all day on Friday to get through the first landslide.  Amazingly, ICE workmen were able get up to the problem area, bypass the downed pole and re-string the lines to restore power by Friday afternoon.  Hats off to them!  By mid-morning on Saturday, the backhoe was able to clear through the next two smaller slides.  Then the last slide, a big one, was cleared on Sunday afternoon.  I realized that in order to repair the slopes the right way, we were going to need to call in some heavier machines.  So, on Monday, August 29 an excavator and dump truck arrived to start the process of sculpting the slopes where the slides occurred in order to stabilize them and greatly reduce the chance of another slide.



Late Monday afternoon, the backhoe was finally able to make it to our property to clear our driveway and start the clean up.  It was a good thing, too, as Ellen and I had a meeting to go to the next morning.


We also were scheduled to head back to North Carolina on September 1st for a visit.  As much as I would have loved to take off and see our kids, I made the decision that I must stay behind to look after our property here.  This year’s rainy season has been predicted to be a fairly wet one and September and October are the months of the heaviest rainfall.  Ellen did make the trip and arrived safely in Chapel Hill for a 3 week stay.  It wasn’t until yesterday, Friday, September 9 that the excavator finished working.  People who have been here for many years say that this was one of the worst rains that Hatillo has seen.  A Tico friend of mine said it is a normal part of living on the mountain.  I guess he’s right, but hopefully we won’t have another one like it anytime soon!  The best thing of all is that no one was hurt during this crazy time.  Pura vida!