Saturday, March 29, 2014

Is this a teachable moment for dealing with natural hazards?

The ABC Evening News tonight led with a story about the magnitude 5.1 earthquake that hit the Los Angeles basin tonight that was widely felt with modest damage.  The next story reported on the continued search for victims in the Oso, Washington landslide. [Right, Oso landslide. Credit, Dave Norman, State Geologist, Washington Dept. of Natural Resources]  Then, still in the first half of the news, they showed a sinkhole in Michigan as the start of a quick assessment of sinkholes nationwide.

Three compelling geologic hazards stories on the national news in less than 15 minutes.

The new issue of Time magazine (April 7) has a two-page aerial photo of the Washington landslide and companion article subtitled, "A deadly disaster in Washington drives home the danger posed by landslides."    They say that "landslides are the most widespread natural hazard - all 50 states face at least some risk."    Landslides kill 25+ Americans each year on average and cause $1-2 billion in damage according to Time.

We can't agree more.    Calls for national landslide hazards assessments have been made for the past decades without much action.  The issues and solutions are pretty much unchanged.   Action plans sit on shelves ready to be implemented. 

Is the Oso slide the "teachable moment" we need or as the news attention wanes, will we go back to business as normal?


  1. I appreciated a couple that came out afterwards highlighting the warning given previously and also exposed irresponsible logging higher up which may also have changed the hydrology which may have had an impact.

    Here they are:

    The Seattle Times: "Risk of slide ‘unforeseen’? Warnings go back decades"

    The Seattle Times: "State allowed logging on plateau above slope"

    This same ridiculous scenario is being played out in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the increase and spreading of trees and forests are being compared to a cancer with such terms in research papers describing the forest tree vegetation spread as "Metastasizing native tree growth". We're not talking invasive species here, but what occurs naturally. The idea is that cutting and thinning water greedy trees will increase stream flow to down elevation reservoirs. But other reports are warning of the mud, rocks and other debris which will actually clog such waterways.

    "Stupid unscientific things said about Forests and Trees"


  2. As the article from The Seattle Times linked to above points out there was a slump in exactly the same location back in 2006. If you want to compare before and after you can look at historic images on Google Earth. The location of the slump is at 48° 16' 57" N 121° 50' 50" W. There is an image from 2005 with one that you can compare with from 2006 after the first slump. It changed the course of the river by about 250 meters.

  3. Yes I saw that too and remember reading where one researcher was surprised they allowed approval for development further up the slope.