Fort Washington residents still evacuated from homes

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. (WJLA) - Brad Bartee came back to grab a couple of things. He says he'll stay out of his house until he's told it's OK to move back home.

"I evacuated last night with my family," he told ABC7. "I have three kids."

Earl Donaldson left even though he's just outside the evacuation zone. He has no utilities.

"You miss water," he said.

They and 26 others have left their neighborhood in the Piscataway Hills near Fort Washington in the hands of utility workers and scientists trying to figure out why 1,500 linear feet of hillside is moving downhill, and what to do about it.

State geologist Richard Ortt says the slope is failing because the houses and road are built on a kind of soil called "marlboro clay."

"Once it gets wet it stays wet," Ortt explained. "It doesn't drain - it stays wet and it's extremely slippery."

The ground on top of that slippery clay is still moving, he added, as is evident by the fact that one section, which had just a crack yesterday, has dropped three more inches.

"Every month or so I'd go down and there'd be, like, a centimeter difference," said Bartee. "But these past two weeks it has been noticeable."

The challenge now - how to stop this force of nature. While the geologists and engineers work on a fix, there is no telling how long the community will be under a mandatory evacuation order.

Miles Cullen doesn't know if he'll ever get to go back home - his house is one of five built on top of the slippery slope.

"We're really looking forward to the geologists doing what they need to do, and we're just on hold 'till then," he said.