Rain adds to Pearl’s super slide toward tracks|[2/28/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More than 3 inches of rain during the weekend led to mud slides on a hill behind houses on Pearl Street, even as crews arrived to block erosion onto railroad tracks below.

Residents said the land began to crack and sink toward the tracks about two months ago, around the time Kansas City Southern Railway added a parallel track along its right of way.

The sloughing has begun to affect porches, clotheslines, basketball goals, patios, sheds and electrical poles, several of which required stabilization last week by power company Entergy. It also triggered calls to elected officials who pledged a response.

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While end loaders worked at the foot of the slide Monday to build a buttress with large rocks, District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon walked along Pearl with former Warren County road manager Rhea Fuller, now employed by an engineering firm. They knocked on doors and gathered information from residents whose back yards have eroded.

Vicksburg North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield also visited the neighborhood Monday and said he plans to set up a meeting between Kansas City Southern and homeowners.

&#8220I think there’s a problem of communication,” Selmon said. &#8220I’ll probably be sending a letter to Kansas City asking them when and where and how they plan to bring this slope back to normal.”

Lee Peek, director of engineering for KCS, reportedly visited the site Sunday, but declined comment when reached by phone Monday.

The construction of the patchwork buttress was being overseen by P.B. Sloan, construction manager for Brandon contractor Foster, Jones and Associates, who told Selmon his crew would try to build the land back after it has stopped the slide and add lateral ditches for drainage to prevent the hill from absorbing too much rain water.

&#8220As soon as we get it stabilized, we’ll smooth this out,” said Sloan, whose crew was finishing up the roadbed on which the new track was being built when the first sliding began shortly after Christmas. &#8220We’ll bring in materials and rebuild these back yards.”

In the meantime, utility workers were keeping an eye on poles, wires, pipes and lines nearby. 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, Rick Hanks, who works in the city engineering department, said last week. Workers with Entergy on Monday checked power lines on the north end of the street. Residents along the entire block have complained of brief outages recently.

&#8220This is something,” said field engineer Wayne Fuller, on hand Monday to keep watch on ITC Delta fiber optic cables running underground alongside the tracks while heavy equipment treads above. &#8220I’ve never seen anything like this mess.”

Neither has Gertrude Reed, a widow who’s lived on the street for more than 35 years, who has lost a clothesline and worries her back porch and shed – each only a few feet from the latest brink, created in further shifts after a wet Saturday – could be the next to succumb.

&#8220I don’t want them putting rocks in my yard,” Reed told Selmon. &#8220I want my yard back like I had it. The railroad knew better when they started all this digging.”

The sliding had already begun, but was exacerbated by rains that began Friday night and continued through early Sunday. The city’s Water Treatment Plant, which records rainfall at the Vicksburg harbor, reported 3.63 inches fell during the weekend.