Mudslide Safety & Preparedness

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— Introduction by Thomas Hodge: Even those of us
who don’t live in California have heard about
the terrible mudslides that caused devastation out there
some weeks back. It’s absolutely horrible, and I really hope people
are able to recover. I can’t imagine how scary that
experience would be. I was inspired to do some research
on mudslides in order to promote awareness on ways people
can keep themselves safe should this kind of disaster occur.

February 13, 2018
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Mudslide Safety & Preparedness

What is a mudslide, how is that
different than a landslide, and how to survive one

The Daily Walk with Love, February 13, 2018, by Thomas Hodge and Paul Evans. Featured photograph courtesy of the L.A. Daily News, video is AERIAL FOOTAGE OF THE MUDSLIDE IN CALIFORNIA 1-9-2018, YouTube — 5:28. Links used to document and write this article were kindly provided by Thomas Hodge, who notes that claims made due to flooding (alone) cost America some $3.5 billion a year.

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So, what exactly is a mudslide, other than a particular kind of landslide? Generally speaking (as someone who has ten years of college level training in geology and earth science), there are a couple of differences. Some see a mudslide as a type or kind of landslide. But mudslides usually involve the land being fully saturated with water, while in a landslide the ground generally need not be so saturated. For example in steep terrain, the least little earth tremor might provoke a terrible, damaging rockfall OR earthflow, and this does not involve water at all. Some people just use the word landslide as a general, more inclusive term. The Red Cross just uses the general term landslide, but whether that is right or wrong, they have excellent preparedness advice.

The L.A. County government has put out a great two-page informational, Landslide & Mudslide Safety, which suggests prudent ways of staying alive and coping with mudslides:

Advice from the L.A. government: "Stay alert and awake. Many debris-flow fatalities occur when people are sleeping. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or portable, battery-powered radio or television for warnings of intense rainfall. Be aware that intense, short bursts of rain may be particularly dangerous, especially after longer periods of heavy rainfall. If you are in areas susceptible to landslides and debris flows, consider evacuating if it is safe to do so."

Home Advisor has a very useful page titled Mudslide Safety for the Home: How to Assess Your Risk and Take Preventative Action, no date, by HomeAdvisor. They note that forest fires near populated areas create perfect conditions for mudslides. In such situations it may only take rainfall of just a couple inches to start powerful mudslides raging downhill. If a populated area is in the way, there is not too much you can do by way of prevention, but you still prepare yourself and your family to have a better chance to survive. They suggest three crucial things you need to do to be safer:

  • Staying up-to-date on storm warnings during times of increased risk.
  • Creating and practicing an evacuation plan for your family. Don’t forget to include your furry family members.
  • Taking photos of your property and understanding what your insurance policy does and does not cover.

Thomas Hodge runs a great website related to today’s topic you might want to check out, at Flood Safety.

Weather Whiz Kids has a great presentation called simply Landslides, which you may want to use to explain all this to your children.

See Staying Alive in 2018: Top 8 Disasters to Prepare For In 2018, The Daily Walk with Love, January 15, 2018, by Mike Johnson with Paul Evans:

Paul Evans: the tendency in reading articles like this, presented so starkly, is to become terribly afraid. However, fear is the enemy, but it is only by preparing ourselves, for example with “crank radios” and back up food and water, that we can make our families safe. Preparedness is key. As to mudslides, prospective home buyers should always check on the geology of the area they are about to build in or the location of the home the wish to buy. Certain U.S. Geological Surveys show the flood risk and I think, too, the mudslide risk, quite dramatically on maps.


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