Unstable hillsides near slide likely to keep West Burnside closed through next Tuesday


Crews are putting a huge dent in the work to remove a massive amount of debris from a landslide in the West Hills, but there are still serious concerns about the stability of the remaining hillside.

The portion of West Burnside Road between Barnes and Skyline that was covered by the slide will likely be closed through at least Tuesday, March 21, as the hillside continues to threaten the roadway with the risk of more landslides.

Crews have already pulled 75 loads of debris off West Burnside, but there have been challenges. More of the hillside came sliding down Wednesday night as crews were working.

Portland Bureau of Transportation officials said about 100 cubic yards slid down on top of the more than 700 existing cubic yards that initially broke away.

This is the largest and one of the scariest slides Portland has seen this winter. Three people were briefly trapped in a car when it was hit by the slide just as the hill was crumbling.

The debris pushed motorists into a ditch, and they had to crawl of a window to escape. None of them were injured. PBOT crews showed off the dug-out car Thursday, which was still caked with mud but showed only minor exterior damage.

Here's the car that was buried! Some visible damage. We've just learned West Burnside will be likely closed tomorrow pic.twitter.com/mjseEtCJKE— Kandra Kent (@KandraKPTV) March 16, 2017

As cleanup continues, more details about the slide, located right on the edge of Mount Calvary Cemetery, have come to light.

Officials said a large crack has developed in the remaining hillside, and it is still pretty unstable at this point.

Crews Thursday morning removed 240 cubic yards of material, and are now digging out more of the unstable hillside.

Dump trucks are headed back in! West Burnside is still closed all day today between Barnes & Skyline pic.twitter.com/vTIU307y3U— Kandra Kent (@KandraKPTV) March 16, 2017

Officials note that the graves are safe for now, but a big section of them could be seen taped off right by the landslide.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said the current damage could be just the tip of the iceberg, adding that they won’t know how unstable the hillside is until crews dig into it further.

"The challenge is, it's like peeling back layers of an onion," he said. "Yesterday we peeled back a layer or two, and we can see more of the situation this morning, and so we realized we'll definitely need to keep peeling more away."

The bureau has spotters on the hillside who are equipped with air horns to send out a warning if any movement is spotted, and three geologists are also on site monitoring the hill.

Cemetery managers said again Thursday that they have no comment at this time regarding any concerns over the slide.

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