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Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

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(KSL News/AP)-- A mudslide that for weeks has threatened a cluster of Cedar Hills condominiums was moving again Thursday and had pushed at least some of the townhomes off their foundations.

The slide has caved in the back of a couple of the town homes, but the worst is yet to come. The slide continues to put intense pressure on the homes and the damage is now likely beyond repair.

Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

Since Saturday, Cedar Hills has got more than three inches of rain, and that is allowing the slide to slowly ooze downhill, where the homes are in the direct path. All of the residents were evacuated two weeks ago and moved out all of their belongings.

They'd been hopeful that the slide would stop, but when the rain wouldn't stop over the last few days, homeowners like Ben and Wendy Wilson have been bracing themselves for the likelihood their home would be destroyed.

Ben Wilson, Home Damaged: “Not a huge surprise, judging from the rain yesterday. Went to bed last night with the thought this is what we would find in the morning.”

Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

Wendy Wilson, Home Damaged: “I looked in the backside of our foundation and it was buckling inward and the two by fours had popped up into the cement on the bottom. You could hear all the creaking and cracking.”

A shot of inside one of the homes gives you some perspective of what the mud is doing to the homes. The mudslide is just too strong for the houses and is breaking the wood framing away from the cement foundation.

"We're actually standing at the back of the house just listening to it cracking and popping," resident Ben Wilson said. "We're actually watching it move. You can physically see the mud moving. It's extremely devastating."

The mass of mud had moved at least some of the residences about two feet off their foundations, Cedar Hills Fire Chief Craig Carlisle said. The slide had pushed mud about 8 feet deep up against the back wall of the four residences, Carlisle added.

Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

By late afternoon Thursday, city engineers had calculated that the mud had moved 12 feet since Wednesday after a record 1.7 inches of rain fell in one 24-hour period, Mayor Mike McGee said. The slide had continued to move west, toward the townhomes, but was also moving to the north, McGee said.

Wednesday night city leaders rescinded certificates of occupancy for the Sage Vista Lane residences, and McGee said it was likely the homes would be condemned.

Watching his house slip away in the mud, Wilson said that he and his wife never worried about the potential danger of living in a hillside home.

"Everything checked out," said Wilson, a 29-year-old auto mechanic. "If we had concerns we definitely wouldn't have moved in."

But a 2000 report by Earthtec Testing & Engineering P.C. said homes there would be in danger of destruction from earthquakes and mudslides. It also warns that there is a prehistoric landslide at the site, that the slide moved in 1983 and that it would likely move again.

Development was eventually allowed to move ahead when a study by another firm for a different developer concluded in 2002 that the site could be safely developed if proper grading and drainage improvements were made.

McGee said no one on the city council nor most of the city's engineers were in their jobs at the time the development was approved. The city now will likely review the zoning there and could prevent future building, he said.

Wilson said the company that built his home, which last week arranged a temporary residence for the couple, told him Thursday that the fractured walls of their home could be repaired.

But Wilson said it would take a lot of convincing to get him to move back in.

In a strange way, Thursday's slide damage felt like a relief, Wilson added. Nearly two weeks of waiting for something to happen has been a stressful roller-coaster ride, he said.

Mudslide Begins to Crush Hillside Homes

"One day you'd think you'd be moving back into your house and the next day, you wouldn't. It's been a nightmare," he said. "If this ends that roller-coaster, well, then it's good."

Some residents are trying to find some humor in all this, one has put up a for sale sign on the front porch, to show just how they wish this had never happened.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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