PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As the skies darken, foretelling the coming of yet more rain to Western Pennsylvania, everyone near or working on a landslide is keeping a wary eye to the sky.
Katie Smith rushed to pack her belongings into a U-Haul truck and a couple of SUVs. The potential collapse of Mary Street in Millvale could take out her home below and she’s been ordered to get out.
“I’m trying to pack up about 10 years of my life. And I gotta be out of here immediately! Before the rain starts coming,” she said.
Claire Ward who lives above Katie and next to the pending slide says the experts have told her, “It’s only a matter of time, and everyday it’s getting worse. If the hill goes, it’s going to hit the house, Girty’s Run and the VFW as well.”
All over the region where slides have fallen from the unusual amount of February rain, there is concern.
Tri-axle trucks and excavators are working feverishly to remove the West End slide before it has a chance to get wet again. Eric Zottola says rain falling on the dirt now makes “it tougher to deal with, heavier, it could start flowing again.”
The slide on Greenleaf Street took out Beth and Charles Butler’s home and friends have started a crowdfunding campaign to try to do what insurance has denied.
Pittsburgh Director of Infrastructure and Mobility Karina Ricks says it was a city hillside that destroyed the Butler’s home, but the cause may have come from off city property above.
Ricks says there are about a dozen homes that have been severely damaged by recent landslides.
“The city is looking at ways it can help, and working with the broader community that has come forward with some of that help,” she said.
Ricks says PennDOT has now hired a second contractor to work along with Zottola to clear the West End slide and get the critical roads reopened.
Even with the additional help she says “it still won’t be a fast process.” There’s about 11,000 cubic yards of soil on that slope that needs to be removed.
“We’re able to remove about 1,200 cubic yards a day,” she said.
The math says that’s about nine days of digging and hauling away, which puts the reopening of the West End roads at least towards the end of next week. Ricks puts it this way, “We still can’t say with any high level of certainty when we’ll get it open again.”