Homeless vet barely escapes when rain causes Boone hillside, parking lot collapse

Homeless vet barely escapes when rain causes Boone hillside, parking lot collapse
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)
(Steve Ohnesorge | WBTV)

BOONE, NC (WBTV) - Ray Langdon says he heard a few pops last night and didn't think anything of it. That is, until a loud pop followed and a retaining wall gave way just feet away from him, sending tons of mud and parking lot pavement down a hillside.

"It was close, very close." Langdon, a former marine and now a homeless vet, said. He was living behind a building along Highway 321 when the hillside broke loose about 25 feet away.

"I jumped and ran," he said.

The mudslide comes after several days of steady rain. In some parts of Watauga County upwards of 8 inches of rain has come down.

"We certainly have had a lot of it," said James Maltba, who manages the building and property where the mudslide wound up.

He moved some items from the back of the building in case more mud comes down and actually hits the structure. So far it has not.

The parking lot that fell with the mud is for a row of offices on the hillside. All the offices remain open, but half the parking lot is now down the hill or off limits because of serious cracks in the pavement.

"It's scary," said Amy Butler, who works in the building. She says she is thankful the collapse happened on a weekend instead of during the week. "I usually park over there."

Engineers were out looking at the damage and assessing what needs to be done next. The key, they said, is for the rain to stop and the hillside to stabilize. So far, that has not happened.

Repairs, though, could take weeks and run into six figures they said. They will continue to monitor the situation until the weather changes.

As for Ray Langdon, he says he will have to find another place to bed down for now.

"In the woods or somewhere." He plans to make sure, he says, to not be next to a hillside again that could come down.

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