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Part of a Mississippi River bluff gave way onto West River Parkway in Minneapolis, directly behind the Fairview Riverside Medical Center, on Thursday evening, June 19, 2014. (John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Minneapolis mudslide shuts down parkway; hospital employees evacuated

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News Duluth,Minnesota 55802 http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/field/image/062014.N.STP_.MUDSLIDE%201_1.jpg?itok=mHsQ_ezc
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Minneapolis mudslide shuts down parkway; hospital employees evacuated
Duluth Minnesota 424 W. First St. 55802

MINNEAPOLIS -- A 100-yard-wide section of rain-soaked Mississippi River bluff at the edge of a major hospital slid onto West River Parkway in Minneapolis on Thursday evening.

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Four panicked drivers on the parkway told fire officials that tons of soil, debris and trees slid past their vehicles, and that they narrowly escaped the 7:13 p.m. slide. Still, fire officials initially worried that some of the University of Minnesota Medical Center’s structures, with its West Bank campus atop the bluff, sat on unsound ground.

While patient care was not affected — and would not be affected in coming days, a hospital official confirmed — some 20 employees in the hospital’s central processing area were evacuated.

Below, a large portion of West River Parkway was buried under 6 feet of mud and trees, and a stretch of the road from Franklin Avenue to Fourth Street will remain closed for the foreseeable future, fire officials said

The slide undermined the soil around cement pads on which the hospital’s large oxygen storage tanks stand — but city engineers checked the tanks and determined they lie on a stable base of bedrock and shale, Deputy Fire Chief Todd White said.

White said more assessment would be done today, but it appeared that all the hospital’s structures were stable.

While the damage “looks worse than it is … the danger is still high; we still have highly saturated soil,” he said, warning pedestrians and bikers to stay away from the area.

White said he worried that a pair of trees, on either side of the slide, would also fall — noting that could add another 50 yards’ worth of debris on each side to slide to the road below.

A record 4.01 inches of rain fell Thursday in the Twin Cities, with a total of 10.64 inches for June.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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