Back yards erode after KSC work|[2/25/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 27, 2006

Leonard and Mary Bell have lived on Pearl Street for more than 30 years, all of them next to the Kansas City Southern rail line that runs along the Mississippi River.

Since the company cut down trees last year and installed a new line that runs about 15 yards from their house, however, the Bells have fought greater noise, vibrations and, like most of their neighbors, a backyard that suddenly began to slide away towards the tracks about two months ago.

&#8220Since they first started over there my house has been shaking and dishes are falling off the wall,” said Mary Bell, who has also experienced electrical problems. &#8220I’m ready to get out of here because I’m scared.”

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Other residents on the street aren’t frightened or looking to move, but they are fuming at the sinking land behind their homes, which in places has toppled basketball goals, forced Entergy to brace power poles, endangered sheds, fences and benches and, if it continues, could threaten several homes.

&#8220I’m so furious, I don’t know what to do,” said Gertrude Reed, a widow who has lived on Pearl Street for 36 years, as she surveyed the cracked, hilly ground behind her house from a back porch perched near the edge of a steep decline. &#8220This used to be a beautiful, smooth backyard. I used to cut it with my lawnmower … Now when the rain comes they say it’s going to start washing this way.”

Rain is expected to come today – a 95 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms overnight and this morning, according to forecasts – but Kansas City Southern crews are also expected to begin work to shore up the slide. Surveyors and engineers contracted by the company were at the site Friday, where they measured the slope and the water level beneath it in preparation for heavier lifting to begin.

&#8220This weekend, KCSR will begin reinforcing the toe of the slope with a rock brace and redressing the slope, in an effort to prevent the hillside from sliding onto the tracks,” said company spokesman Doniele Kane in an e-mail Friday. The slide was caused by the saturation of rain water, she said. Rainfall in Vicksburg this year has been 7.95 inches, below the average for this point in the year of 9.52 inches.

The city has no property in the area, but is monitoring gas and water lines along the railroad right-of-way where the slide has occurred, said Rick Hanks, who works in the city engineering department.

&#8220We’re prepared if things get worse to respond if either one of the lines go out,” Hanks said. &#8220We’ll have to respond pretty quickly.”

For residents, the fix is welcome, but they said problems of living so close to a rail line, without a barrier against the noise or vibrations, persist.

&#8220We felt they should have done some kind of survey or something,” said the Bells’ son, Joseph. &#8220I know it’s their property but I feel they should have done more surveying.”