Landslide threatens homes

Tom and Barb Tomaro made the decision to demolish the half of their home already compromised by the landslide in hopes the other half could be spared as a channel was created for the still moving earth. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

Kilbuck Township officials and property owners in the area of Old Camp Horne Road are continuing to monitor a landslide that has already damaged several homes and remains a threat to other homes and nearby businesses.

One of the homes most heavily impacted is that of Kilbuck Township Supervisor Tom Tomaro and his wife, Barb. Over a week ago they noticed earth movement and buckling at the rear of the home at 301 Old Camp Horne Rd. that has been in the Tomaro family since 1961. The area behind their home known locally as “Goat Hill” was sliding and, according to township manager Harry Dilmore, engineers quickly determined there was no way to stop it. All anyone could do was attempt to limit the damage that was sure to be done, which included trying to keep the tons of clay and mud from reaching even more homes and businesses on Camp Horne Road itself.

By last weekend, the earth had pushed another home, owned by William and Darlene Farmer, some 50 feet off its foundation, although it had not broken up the house itself. The Tomaros, however, watched as the hillside – moving at an estimate 1 to 1.5 inches per hour, compromised the rear wall of their home. Friends, family and other volunteers scrambled to move the family’s belongings out of the portion of the house most at risk. Finally, the decision was made to demolish that side of the house in hopes of channeling the landslide around the remainder of the property.

“You feel totally helpless,” Dilmore said. “All you can do is help these people box up their lives.”

A car parked at the Farmer property was crushed by a tree brought down by the landslide.

Meanwhile, the slide was destroying sewer and water lines to all the properties in the area, and utilities were turned off. Several properties along Old Camp Horne were without electricity for several days, Dilmore said. One other house was evacuated, and temporary utilities were set up for yet another.

Engineers have confirmed that the only way to address the slide is from the top of the hill, but that is easier said than done. Dilmore said that the earth is so soft in places that anyone stepping onto the hillside sinks into the mud up to their knees. Ross Township is helping officials get a clearer picture of what is going on at the top of the hillside by bringing in the neighboring township’s drone, which will be used to monitor additional earth movement.

Dilmore said that efforts to keep the landslide from reaching Camp Horne have so far been successful, with a plateau created to hold some of the moving mud, and trenches dug to divert some of the water that is undermining the clay hillside. Boulders as heavy as 8,000 lbs. were removed to eliminate the possibility that they might be pushed down the hill. The township manager has reached out to officials at all levels of government – local, county and state – to prepare for what might still be coming. The effort is limited by the fact that much of the property involved is privately owned, which impacts how tax dollars can be spent. All of the heavy equipment and much of the labor used so far has been donated by private individuals and companies, Dilmore said.

The Tomaros remain cautiously optimistic that they may be able to return to their property.

“We would like to rebuild if we can somehow get the hillside stabilized,” Tom said.

That will be a monumental challenge, as property owners found out that their homeowners insurance covers absolutely nothing related to earth movement. A GoFundMe account has been established to help the Tomaros raise money for rebuilding.