Did you know that landslides happen in every state in the U.S.? For Colorado residents, the risk of landslides is greater than most. That’s because Rocky Mountain states are some of the most landslide-prone in the country, in addition to areas on the West Coast and in Alaska. Other landslide-heavy areas in the U.S. include Appalachia on the east coast, the Northeast, Midwest, and Puerto Rico. To learn more about Colorado’s landslide risk, check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s interactive online map.
Do you know what to do before, during, and after a landslide to protect your Colorado home and your family? Each year, landslides cause millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses across the U.S. This includes well-known places like Montecito, CA, that saw 400 homes impacted by the 2018 landslide. Twenty-three California residents also lost their lives in that tragic event. Areas on the West Coast aren’t the only ones impacted by the country’s growing landslide risk, however. As more homes and businesses are built, land is developed, and major weather events increase in the U.S., landslide risk to homeowners grows as well.
What Exactly is a Landslide?
A landslide happens when a large area of ground experiences movement. This ground flow can include debris, mudflow, rock falls, and slope failure. The resulting soil movement can devastate trees, shrubs, and other natural areas, bringing the items along in the flow and causing major damages in its wake. In addition, cars, small houses, and other man-made items can also be forced along with the ground flow, from fencing to signposts.
Landslides begin with dirt or mudflow but can quickly encompass rocks, trees, cars, and more as well. The ground movement is caused by the combination of gravity and other factors, including:
- Land erosion due to building and clearing
- Slope failure
- Melting snow
- Heavy rain combined with wet and oversaturated soil conditions
- Erupting volcanoes
Land that has been developed for building, especially newly cleared land, is most susceptible to ground flows.
What Makes an Area in the U.S. More Landslide-Prone?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, homeowners living in areas with these common factors are most at risk for landslides:
- The area has been impacted by landslides in the past.
- The home is built at the base or the top of a steep slope.
- The community is built on or near an old fill slope or drainage hollow.
- The area is in or near a man-made development that changed the natural hillside, especially when leach field septic systems are in use.
How Can I Identify When a Landslide is Occurring?
If your Colorado Springs or Denver community has experienced landslides in the past or has one of the other common indicators of landslide risk, you need to know what to expect when a landslide occurs. Common landslide warning signs include:
- Oversaturation of soil from heavy snowmelt or rainfall, especially in areas that are not usually moist
- Bulging or cracking of the ground, including pavement and sunken roads
- Moving soil, especially near a building’s foundation
- Tilting patios or decking around the exterior of a home
- Cracking foundations, often shown in a home through sticking doors and windows that are hard to open and close
- Damaged water and utility lines or broken and leaning telephone poles
- Broken or leaning fencing and trees
- A sudden increase or decrease in water levels in creeks or rivers
- Increasing rumbling sound or sound of cracking trees or falling boulders
What is the Best Way to Respond During and After a Landslide?
If you have any of the common landslide identifiers in your area, and especially if you live in an area that is landslide-prone, consider the following tips:
- Stay alert and awake after a heavy rainfall.
- Check in with emergency alerts and local weather broadcasts.
- Move to higher ground or a higher room in the home.
- Listen for sounds of debris movement and cracking trees.
- When driving, remember to “turn around, don’t drown,” and never drive through submerged roadways or through flooded streams or bridges. A small amount of water can cause major life-threatening problems for drivers very quickly.
- Stay alert for holes in the roadway or collapsed pavement on sidewalks and driveways.
After a landslide occurs, review this checklist for essential information on protecting yourself and your home from its devastating effects. This includes:
- Stay away from areas impacted by the landslide.
- Be aware that more ground flow could occur at any time.
- Check for basement or crawl space flooding and/or foundation damage in your home.
- Do not touch downed power lines.
- Stay away from gas lines or moved propane tanks.
- Schedule a professional inspection to ensure the home is structurally sound and safe to enter.
If your home is impacted by a landslide or other event, or you identify basement or crawl space leaks or foundation damage, let the foundation repair experts in Colorado help. Contact the team at Complete Basement Systems for a free inspection and repair estimate to protect the health of your home’s foundation now and in the future.