A Burlington, Vermont, woman who had to race from her rented home with her husband and child when landslides left the property close to collapsing into a river is expressing gratitude for her family's safety.
"We just don't want to go in there," Marci Oughstun said of the Plattsburg Avenue property that is now teetering dangerously close to falling into the Winooski River. "I'm so grateful it didn't happen when we were sleeping."
Earlier this week, the backyard of the home fell away in a series of landslides, along with an old bridge abutment on the river.
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There is very sandy soil along the Winooski River, and the natural flow of the water may silently have been weakening the bank for many decades.
"The trees started crashing, and I screamed and my husband thought I saw a spider or something," Oughstun recalled, describing what she witnessed Sunday morning as she was making coffee. "He came and saw the look of horror on my face, and we just grabbed our son and ran out of the house."
Oughstun said her out-of-state landlord has been wonderful throughout the past few days, and that the property owner has been communicating what steps she is taking in response to the emergency.
Oughstun said the homeowner's lawyer planned to consult with a structural engineer late Thursday to figure out what to do, because that landlord has been ordered to tear down the house.
"It's going to reach a certain tipping point and it's just going to go," warned Norm Baldwin, Burlington's city engineer.
Baldwin issued a dangerous building order, telling the property's owner to have it demolished. Baldwin said he fears continued soil loss could send the whole thing crashing into the water, which flows to Lake Champlain.
"I compare it almost to a mousetrap," Baldwin said. "I think it's in everyone's best interest to have this building removed before it goes into the river."
Baldwin said the Army Corps of Engineers and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources have been consulted in developing the response to the landslides.
Oughstun told necn she was able to collect valuables and some heirlooms before evacuating the house, but she, her husband, and toddler son are coming to peace with the fact they'll likely lose what other belongings had to be left inside because the home can no longer be entered.
"We're so lucky to have each other and that we all made it out safely," Oughstun said. "I got up early and my son was sleeping, and I just looked at him and started crying, because he was ok. That's what I took out of that-- he's OK, and we're OK; we'll be OK!"
Oughstun said she and her husband did not have renter's insurance, but her sister in Massachusetts started a GoFundMe effort to help them get back on their feet.
In just two days, that fundraiser collected more than $4,000.