By Thursday afternoon, Vern Balkowitsch had heavy equipment in place, safety barricades set up and heavy cables attached to the top of the Rimrocks.
“We’re about ready to drop some rocks,” he said.
The two rocks in question weigh in the neighborhood of 300 tons each, and Balkowitsch, the owner of Accurate Concrete Cutting in Vancouver, Wash., hopes to bring them both down on Friday with a minimum of fanfare and collateral damage.
The first rock is scheduled to fall about 8:30 a.m. above the house at 1313 Granite Ave. that was destroyed when a slab of sandstone broke off the Rims last October. Rock No. 2 is another chunk of sandstone precariously attached to the Rims above Shady Lane and Rimview Drive.
If all goes well above Granite Avenue, Balkowitsch said, he’d like to drop the second rock around noon or 1 p.m.
The cables above both projects are attached to heavy steel plates bolted into the sandstone. The cables will be used by workers who will rappel down the Rims to set big hydraulic jacks into cracks behind the rocks in question, which will then be slowly nudged away from the cliff face until they fall.
The safety barricades consist of heavy-duty cyclone fencing and steel cables, set up at the bottom of the slope at both sites, to catch any stray fragments of rock that might tumble that far. At both sites, Balkowitsch is hoping that the rocks, which are bound to break into smaller pieces, won’t travel too far and will be stopped by other boulders already scattered over the slope.
Security areas will be set up in wide zones around both sites, to keep gawkers away from danger, and there will be street closures in the vicinity of the projects as well.
After the rock is dropped above Granite, Balkowitsch will use heavy equipment to break up boulders behind and inside the home that was destroyed last fall and which is owned by Jon Lodge and Jane Deschner.
Earlier in the week, Balkowitsch’s crew put a steel plate on the front of the house and then attached three steel beams to the plate. The beams are braced against a boulder out front, to keep the house from moving forward, or even collapsing, while work is being done inside.
Deschner and Lodge, some of whose belongings are still in the shattered house, plan to watch as the rock is dropped from the Rims above their house Friday. They don’t know how close they’ll be, since eight houses around theirs will be evacuated Friday morning.
“We’re kept out like everybody else,” Deschner said. “Probably we’ll stand out on Cactus (Drive) and watch it.”