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Highland returning to normalcy after destructive mudslides

April 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's been almost four months since mud and debris buried the southeast Highland community known as the Village.

More than 200 residents were forced to evacuate their homes just three days before Christmas after heavy rain and soaked hillsides gave way and flooded the area.

Today, the neighborhood is slowly returning to normal.

Contractors hired by residents are working around the clock to repair much of the damage.

"We're doing about five of these jobs right now in this neighborhood," said Rus Ouellet of RRC Construction Services. "I think overall it's going fairly well."

Still, there are several more homes that cannot be repaired. They are the red tagged homes labeled too dangerous to enter or uninhabitable.

"I am feeling sorry for my neighbor because nobody can come back. It's very hard," said Atef Kheir, whose home was damaged but was able to return to it.

Kheir borrowed $30,000 to remove mud from underneath his home's foundation and repair other damage inside.

"Not all people have enough money to get for their houses," he said. "The city offers some money."

Residents are able to apply for a loan through the city of Highland's neighborhood improvement program.

The $25,000 loan would forgive after five years. Even so, it's not enough to cover the heavy damage caused by the massive winter storm.

"This is the worst natural disaster we've had in the city's history," said Highland Mayor Larry McCallon. "Unfortunately, the hillsides around couldn't hold all the moisture. We're doing what we can to help residents."