Local landslide concerns grow in wake of Wash. tragedy

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Concerns for potential landslides have grown locally as a result of the deadly mudslide that hit Washington state and claimed the lives of at least 24 people.

Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries’ Geologist  Vicki McConnell said Oregon does not have an alert system to warn of landslides, but the state does partner with the National Weather Service when there is a flood watch and sends out an alert.

A map, from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, shows landslide risks in the Northwest (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries)
A map, from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, shows landslide risks in the Northwest (Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries)

“They send out a flood watch, we pick it up here and then we send it out again. But we really focus on reminding people it’s not just a flood, but (the alert) also says potential for landslides and debris flows,” said McConnell.

McConnell said that if you know you live in a landslide area, you should take the following precautions:

  1. Check your driveway for cracks in it
  2. Make sure water is running off your property properly
  3. Call an expert to double check

Many neighbors in Portland’s Burlingame neighborhood said they wish they could have given McConnell’s advice to a family who had their home swept away by a landslide a few years ago.

Peter Smith said the landslide carried his neighbor’s home down some 300-feet into the back of two other homes in 2008.

“She heard noises, scratching noises. She didn’t understand what it was and she couldn’t open the front door. The house was shifting already at that time,” said Smith.

Neighbors said they had to pull a mother who was inside the home out at the last moment.

While the woman managed to escape with her life, Smith said she has been faced with financial issues ever since.

“Their insurance didn’t cover them a penny and the judge ruled against the lady. They ruled in favor of the insurance company,” said Smith.

Smith said landslide insurance is either hard to come by or too expensive, so being prepared is the best defense.

McConnell said an interactive map on oregongeology.gov can serve as a tool for determining a home’s risk for landslides.  It allows visitors to input their own address to see if their home is in a dangerous path.

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