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     Landslides and mudslides are a serious problem among those people who live in areas with many large hills and mountains, and have affected almost every state in the United States. On the average, 25-50 people in the U.S lose their lives due to mudslide and landslides. Across the world, they have caused billions of dollars in damage and taken thousands of lives. Safety and preparedness are big issues when speaking of mudslides and landslides. But before this very subject can be breeched, an understanding of the cause of mudslides and landslides needs to be acquired. A landslide, by general definition, is the sudden process of a piece of land, usually from an elevated area, breaking away from the whole, and through gravity, is carried down to lower elevations. Landslides are typically associated with periods of heavy rain or large amounts of melting snow. Areas that have been burned by fire have an increased risk of landslides, due to increased soil exposure. Flooding, which is a major concern during heavy rain and snow melt in the first place, can become increasingly worse with the occurance of a landslide.

     A mudslide or debris flow, is a type of fast moving landslide. They usually start on steep hillsides as shallow landslides that liquefy and accelerate to speeds that are typically about 10 miles per hour, but can exceed 35 miles per hour. Gravity is the force driving landslide movement. Factors that allow the force of gravity to overcome the resistance of earth material to landslide movement include: saturation by water, steepening of slopes by erosion or construction, alternate freezing or thawing, earthquake shaking, and volcanic eruptions.The consistency of debris flows ranges from watery mud to thick, rocky mud that can carry large items such as boulders, trees, and cars. Debris flows from many different sources can combine in channels, and their destructive power may be greatly increased. They continue flowing down hills and through channels, growing in volume with the addition of water, sand, mud, boulders, trees, and other materials. When the flows reach flatter ground, the debris spreads over a broad area, sometimes accumulating in thick deposits that can wreak havoc in developed areas.

     Any area composed of very weak or fractured materials resting on a steep slope can and will likely experience landslides.

      These areas include but are not limited to existing old landslides; the bases of steep slopes; the bases of drainage channels; and developed hillsides where leach-field septic systems are used. Look for various warning signs that would indicate that a land slide is possible, if not probable. Should you find any of these signs, please take the proper precautions (see "Landslide Safety Tips" link below) to insure your safety, and the safety of your loved ones. Although the physical cause of many landslides cannot be removed, geologic investigations, good engineering practices, and effective enforcement of land-use management regulations can reduce landslide hazards.



             All information obtained from USGS.gov, Disaster Relief.org, and the American Red Cross


 
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