Homes evacuated after landslide in North Salt Lake

Wednesday , August 06, 2014 - 1:35 AM

By ANDREAS RIVERA Standard-Examiner staff

NORTH SALT LAKE — More than 20 homes have been evacuated and one completely destroyed after a hillside slid down here Tuesday morning. 

The home on Parkway Drive crumbled after rain-saturated soil from the hill above started piling up behind it at around 6 a.m. Tuesday. The hill is located above the Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club.

North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave declared a local state of emergency in a regularly scheduled city council meeting Tuesday. The city also said Tuesday evening that a developer has volunteered to test the area for landslide risks and eventually mitigate them. The specific developer was not immediately specified.

No injuries have been reported.

The National Weather Service is forecasting heavy rain, gusty winds and lightning Tuesday afternoon along the Wasatch Front.

Witnesses say the house was pushed away from its foundation by the moving earth.

“It looked like it was bursting at the seams,” said neighbor Julie Chapman.

Chapman and her family were among the many residents evacuated. Residents say they have heard rumbling coming from the hillside for days prior to the slide.

Chapman is an office manager for the club and was at work when she heard the rumbling.

“It was so loud, like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” she said.

Scott Betts was at work when he got the call from his wife that the neighborhood was being evacuated. He rushed home, and she had already gathered their children and essential belongings in the front yard to be moved.

“Luckily we weren’t in the path of the slide,” he said. “It was probably a wise move (to evacuate), given the amount of earth that moved.”

Evacuations are taking place around the area north of 706 Parkway Drive.

North Salt Lake Police said the ground around the adjacent home is still unstable and it is currently unknown how long evacuations will take place. 

Utilities in the area were shut down to prevent any other complications.

An evacuation center for those displaced by the landslide was set up a church at 351 Lofty Lane, just a few blocks from Parkway Drive. Residents were briefly allowed to gather important items from their home, but as of 8:30 a.m., only authorized personnel were allowed near the wreckage.

Late Monday night city crews were above the slide trying to shore up the hillside. 

Residents of 23 of the 27 homes are expected to return Wednesday, if weather cooperates, the Associated Press reports. A timeline for the return of the other displaced families has not been set.

Neighbors say a large housing development has been working on the ridge above the neighborhood for some time now, trying to secure the land for construction. It is unknown if it is directly connected to the landslide.

Marcus Zafhcas, a neighbor who lives on Parkway Drive above the slide, said the cause is obviously over-development and that the city should have known for years the hillside was a bad place to build. 

“Anyone with half-common sense could tell that this land was unsafe,” Zafhcas said.

North Salt Lake city crews are working to protect surrounding threatened homes from mother nature.

“The landslide continues to move,“ said city engineer Paul Offeson during a news conference.

The city has known about the unstable ground for some time. 

City Manager Barry Edwards said cracks in the earth were visible last fall and they have been working to help stabilize the area since then.

When asked by news media who was at fault, Edwards responded, “We’re not in the blame business.”

Crews are investigating the cause of the slide and what went wrong. Until that time the city will review geological studies and are indefinitely “suspending any new development” on the ridge to make sure when it is safe to build again.

Although the area was deemed safe by geological surveys, North Salt Lake Mayor Len Arave said there are risks to building a home anywhere.

“When someone buys a home, they need to be aware of the risks.” 

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