Four homes remain at risk in North Salt Lake landslide

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 5 2014 8:20 a.m. MDT

Crews work following a landslide in North Salt Lake, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

NORTH SALT LAKE — Familes in homes along a hillside here remained displaced following a massive landslide that crushed one house, damaged a tennis and swim club, and placed other homes directly in harm's way Tuesday morning.

Evacuations for three families could be in place for a week or longer as daylong emergency work began Tuesday. A total of 27 homes had been evacuated throughout the day.

Many residents were allowed to return to their homes Tuesday evening but were cautioned the earth may continue to move. Crews must wait for the area to dry out from persistent rain storms that battered the area Monday and Tuesday before a more permanent solution is found.

"They're welcome to come back in, but they need to understand there still are risks out there, that it could move," said Barry Edwards, North Salt Lake city manager. "We didn't anticipate last night that we would be here today, and though the weather may be a little more predictable today, just be aware that if they come back in to be careful, be vigilant."

Four houses, one of which is vacant, remained particularly at risk — three alongside the badly damaged home on Parkway Drive, and a fourth house on Parkway Circle, Edwards said.

The slide buckled and crushed a home near 739 Parkway Drive. Next door to the home, the Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club was also damaged. Officials shut down access to Eagleridge Drive leading up to the scene.

The family whose home was destroyed declined to comment Tuesday.

The top of the hill where the landslide occurred is about 200 yards above the base of the tennis court, where a portion of rock and soil about 500 feet wide sloughed off the hill and came to rest behind the home and the tennis club.

Julie Chapman, who lives across the street from the Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club where she works, described what she saw about 6:15 a.m. when the earth moved.

"It was really loud," Chapman said. "It would come in sections. Then it came and hit the house, then it would hit the court, then it would slow down and just a few rocks were coming down. And then, all of a sudden, another big section just would come down.

"It was really scary," she said. "I was thinking, 'Please don't let it go across the street to my house.' I felt really bad. It's where I work. It's the community I live in. It was sad to watch."

Power and water was available as residents returned to their homes Tuesday, but gas lines in the neighborhood are expected to remain shut off for three to seven days. Crews can't get in to the damaged home to shut off gas flow to a line that was broken when the house was ripped from its foundation, requiring a shutoff for the surrounding area.

"No one is willing to get in there and dig around it. That could set off another set of events," Edwards explained to the North Salt Lake City Council in a work session Tuesday.

The area has been a concern for officials since last fall when there was cracking in the soil below Pace Lane, according to Paul Ottoson, city engineer for North Salt Lake. The cracking started again in the early summer, and a few weeks ago "we got very concerned about it," he said.

Developers began removing soil material from the top of the hill last week in an attempt to alleviate the downward pressure and to lessen the angle of the slope.

City officials warned residents in the development Monday to move their belongings out of their basements. A rock wall was already damaged Monday, and the moving soil was audible, Edwards said.

"Unfortunately, because of the rains we've had recently, especially last night, we had a very serious event," Ottoson said.

The cause

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