Landslide pushes homes off foundations

Elisabeth Nardi DAILY HERALD

Some homes in Cedar Hills are literally holding up a mountain -- but that may not be the case much longer.

A landslide that for weeks has been threatening to take out a cluster of condominiums in the northeastern part of the city was again on the move Thursday.

The landslide had pushed some of the townhouses off their foundations and the slide had moved more than 3 meters in less than 24 hours. The new developments have caused officials and residents to predict that it may be a matter of hours or days before the homes are destroyed.

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. visited the site Thursday, saying "We've got a very dangerous mudslide situation that sadly isn't getting any better."

The landslide is pressing up against a fourplex of condominiums, each valued at about $130,000. On Thursday, in the basement of one of the condos, dirt and debris was beginning to push through the walls.

Valerie Sorenson, who owns one of the condos but not the one that has debris pouring in, said she thinks her home is holding up the rest of the condominiums. On Thursday, she was taking the last of her belongings out of her garage. She never expects to see her home again, she said.

"It's just a matter of time before it all comes down," she said. "I think my home is pretty much gone."

Councilman Jim Perry, who has been keeping a watchful eye on the slide and lives across the street, said the slide would have to move another 10 feet before the houses could be destroyed. The movement of the slide compared to the last few days has been dramatic, he said.

"Pretty much the house is literally like a retaining wall at this point," he said. "If it keeps coming and coming and coming then I think the house is going to lose it."

City leaders also recommended that the residents of a single-family home across the street and a nearby fourplex evacuate on Thursday. Engineers predict that if the slide continues, it could plow through those homes as well, according to the Associated Press.

And the weather is not helping the situation. Wednesday there were almost 2 inches of rain that fell in Pleasant Grove, to the south of Cedar Hills -- a record for this time of year.

"It looks like a pretty grim scene, but it all depends on the weather," Perry said.

Mayor Mike McGee declared a state of emergency on April 29, allowing for Cedar Hills to use the resources of the state and county for help with geological surveying and monitoring, using heavy equipment for cleanup and sheltering those evacuated.

Recently obtained documents show a study done of the area in 2000 said it was unsafe to build there. Another study done in 2002 contradicted that report, and said if certain steps were taken, the slide area could be stabilized. City officials gave the go-ahead for construction based on the newer report.