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This home's foundation has been wrecked by shifting earth
This home's foundation has been wrecked by shifting earth

Rainstorms trigger slide in Keene Valley, threatening homes

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Weeks of relentless rain have destabilized a massive section of hillside in the Adrian's Acres neighborhood in Keene Valley, which sits on the slopes of Porter Mountain.

Town and state officials say an area roughly a half-mile wide has begun to shift, slumping downward several inches each day.

One vacation home has already been condemned, and one other house evacuated. At least four more homes are threatened.

Brian Mann was on Porter Mountain yesterday and has our story.

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Keene town supervisor Bill Ferebee inspects a slide-damaged home on Porter Mountain (Photos:  Brian Mann)

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

 As a steady drizzle falls over Keene Valley town supervisor Bill Ferebee points to a gash in the earth a foot wide and several feet deep.

"This all, this area, it just dropped," he says.

Nearby a stream runs fast and hard, swollen by record-setting rains.  Already, low-lying neighborhoods have been hit hard across the North Country.

Now, all that water has destabilized slopes and hillsides.  One home here in the Adrian’s Acres neighborhood has already been condemned, its foundation shattered by moving earth.

"You can see here how the house has lifted.  Now this house has lifted in just the last three days, which means that house is tipping forward.  Wow!"

Next door, another home—owned by Jim and Charity Marlatt is being evacuated, as movers carry furniture and dishes to a waiting truck. 

Charity sits in an empty living room.  She’s put a bright flower in her hair, trying to cheer herself up, but she’s clearly devastated. 

She and her husband first realized their home was in danger last week, when they returned from vacation.

"My planting table was tilting and then we really started to look.  At that point it was just a small crack in the lawn.  But when it reached a foot [wide], that was really scary."

The Marlatts are exposed to the massive power of this spring’s rains – but they’re also exposed financially.  Like most North Country families, they’re facing this crisis without the help of insurance.

"The insurance does not cover the movement of land and that's also a devastation to Jim and me," she says.

The Marlatts are hoping that a contractor can shore up their house with steel piers or some other form of support.  But Andy Kozlowski, a glacial geologist with the New York State Museum, says stabilizing anything on this hillside will be difficult.

"There's these large blocks of soil...and it's breaking off in sort of pieces."

He says the area affected by the slide is now "well over a mile around."

Because the rain continues to fall here, Kozlowski says that huge chunk of heavy dirt, trees and rock is moving faster – several inches each day.

"The ball is somewhat rolling in a sense...it actually has been accelerating," he notes.

Keene own supervisor Bill Ferebee says this latest disaster comes on the heels of weeks of other crises, with homes evacuated along the Ausable River, roads damaged and emergency crews pushed to the limit.

"I'm just concerned.  I'm a people person and I'm just concerned about the safety of everyone."

Meanwhile, Charity Marlatt seems sort of dazed to find herself and her home at the epicenter of the spring flood disaster that’s affected a vast region of northern New York and Vermont.

"If I weren't so emotionally involved, if my heart weren't so broken right now, this would be a fascinating situation," she says.  

"Because I've learned more about geology than I probably care to."

Slides have affected homes and roads in other communities, from Westport and Port Henry to the town of Hague, where a slide this week damaged a stretch of Route 9n. 

More rain is in the forecast at least through Thursday.  For North Country Public Radio…I’m brian Mann on Porter Mountain in Keene Valley.

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