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Asheville Home Collapsing, Neighbors Concerned

6:46 AM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
The home at 145 Black Oak Drive has been condemned by Buncombe County emergency officials in fear that it may slide down the hill into other homes. / DILLON DEATON/Ddeaton1@citizen-times.com
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Asheville, NC (ACT) -- The sinking home at 145 Black Oak Drive has become something akin to a tourist attraction for some residents in the neighborhood.

Throughout the day Thursday, groups of people walked up the steep road, bypassed a mudslide that blocked vehicle access to the home and took a look at the house, which is slowly collapsing as the earth gives way underneath it. At least one resident said it looked as if an earthquake struck the property.

"It's still actively moving," engineer Marvin Mercer told a group of about 50 residents who gathered at Beaverdam Fire Department to learn more about the situation. "The house is creaking and moaning. It's not stable whatsoever."

Residents voiced a litany of concerns, including whether their home was in danger if the condemned house collapsed and asking if they should evacuate. Some have already left their homes fearing the unknown.

The problems first started last week when more than five inches of rain fell in two days. A neighbor noticed a problem with the house Saturday and notified emergency officials. The county condemned the home that day. The rain continued to pelt the city into this week, taking its toll on the soil beneath the home and causing a landslide Wednesday night.

J.J. Jucick, who lives at 131 Black Oak Road, came to the meeting because he was concerned about where the house might go if it slides. Many residents have been looking at landslide hazard maps, trying to figure out if they would be in the line of a landslide or the actual house falling down the mountain.

Engineers told the residents the soil is of more concern than the home actually sliding down the mountain. Jucick, like many others, came to the meeting looking for answers and wanting to know about the county's plan.

"The house is sliding and we are told that we are somewhat in the path," Jucick said. "I've heard a couple different theories about where this house is going when it finally goes, if it goes."

If it continues to rain, Mercer said, he expects the house and soil to continue to move. County emergency officials and engineers explained to residents that they are still in the evaluation period. They haven't even removed the trees that fell into the road during the landslide, fearing that could make the soil more unstable.

"When we go to fix this, we want to make sure we don't make it worse," said engineer Bernie Kessel, who along with Mercer, was hired by the county to assess the property.

Nine homes, including the condemned structure, are above the landslide. Residents are only able to reach their homes by foot.

"This is probably the largest house that I've seen in danger of sliding down the mountain," said Jerry VeHaun, the county's emergency services director.

County officials met Thursday evening with the owner of the condemned home to discuss what to do with the property. Residents will continue to wait.

"It's very dramatic to see it," Jim Meyer said after his family walked up the road to view the home. "And it also makes you feel pretty vulnerable. And we're not out of this rain yet."

In the meantime, Mercer said people should stay away from the property.

"No one should go onto that property, in or around that structure. Period. The kids shouldn't be going there. You shouldn't be going there. It's not cool to go take a picture with it. Trust me. That structure is not safe at this point."

Written By: Romando Dixson, Asheville Citizen-Times

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