Residents evacuated after mudslide topples Utah home

SALT LAKE CITY Tue Aug 5, 2014 3:44pm EDT

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SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A mudslide toppled one home in Utah on Tuesday and forced the evacuation of 20 others and a tennis club below a hillside that city officials said had already shown signs of stress. 

The mudslide appears to be 200- to 300-feet wide and roughly the same length, said Len Arave, mayor of North Salt Lake, a community about eight miles north of Salt Lake City.

Rocks and dirt from the slope began moving early on Tuesday, the mayor told Reuters, crashing through one house and damaging a retaining wall and the Eagle Ridge Tennis and Swim Club next door. 

The mudslide started about 12 hours after a heavy summer storm dumped almost an inch of rain on the area in one hour, said Mike Conger, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Arave said no one was hurt, but the residents of 20 homes were evacuated and the city declared a state of emergency.

"Everybody we thought might be at risk has been asked to leave, although it doesn't seem to be sliding quickly," he said. "Our preference is to be safe, rather than sorry."

City and state engineers were on the hillside at midday Tuesday assessing the damage and developing a plan to prevent any further destruction. More rain was forecast for Tuesday, which was causing some concern, he added. 

City officials sent letters to residents several weeks ago, alerting them that fissures and other "signs of stress" had been identified on the hillside, which is undergoing some development. Arave said discussions about a mitigation effort were already under way before Tuesday's mudslide.

"We were hoping to get in there and address it before something happened," he said. "But unfortunately, that didn't happen."

(Reporting by Jennifer Dobner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)

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