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Landslides

by Michael Griesmer

Some landslides are the result of soil loosening up because of heavy rains. But landslides are not necessarily dependent on rainfall; they can take place after a light rain, or even when there has been no rainfall at all.

Similar to earthquakes, the occurrence of landslides depends on the buildup of instability of the land on a slope and once the forces of gravity overcome the forces holding the land in place, a landslide starts.

Landslides consist of mud, rocks, and debris coming from a higher place and tumbling down to a lower place.

Landslides are so dangerous because what they bring with them is heavy and hard. It's water, soil, possibly uprooted trees, garbage, parts of houses, cars... anything in its path can become part of the landslide.

A landslide in the mountains may only contain earth, water, rocks and some trees. But a landslide taking place in a city may also include, cars, pieces of houses, trees, bushes, even raw sewage, unfortunately. Regardless of the composition, landslides have the power break to down houses that they encounter along the way and to carry away vehicles (remember that when you're trying to get out of the way.

Tips to Stay Safe

Everyone should be aware of the following information, but people who house is built on a slope or at the bottom of a hill are under constant threat of landslides. If your home is so situated, make sure that you have your home professionally inspected every 6 months to see that the structure is holding up and also that the terrain above is not showing signs of an impending landslide.

An indication in your house that the earth is shifting and a landslide may be immanent would be any new cracks in the foundation of your home. Such cracks are evidence that the soils that your home is built on are shifting, are not staying in place.

Whether it's your own home or someplace you're vacationing, if you notice that the soil around your house feels softer than usual, that's a warning sign. If the softness is not from rain, then it may be that the soil has started shifting and a landslide is immanent.

Cracks in your houses foundation and softness of soil may be present as warning signs, but landslides can also occur without any warning. Things could just start falling down the hill.

During an actual landslide event, the first thing you want to think about is how to get out of the path of the debris flow. If your home is in the path of a large landslide it will probably destroy the house, but if you and your family escape and survive, that's what really matters. There's nothing you can do to prevent or stop and oncoming landslide, and your house may not protect you, so the important thing to do is to flee.

If you are caught unawares and there is no time to leave, do the next best thing which is to seek shelter in your home under a desk or a sturdy table.

If you do have time to make a run for it, don't go downhill. The landslide will pick up speed as it tumbles down the mountain (or slope). So if possible, go uphill where the landslide will be less intense. But don't drive directly toward the landslide, drive away from it. In other words don't drive in the same direction as the landslide is headed, downhill. Drive away from it: right, left or up.

In a landslide situation, think quickly about whether you can get out or whether you need to shelter in place. But maybe the best advice is to keep your head so you can decide which option to take. Keep your head and don't panic.


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