Understanding Mudslides & Staying Safe

Mudslides are a fast-moving landslides caused by disturbances in the natural stability of a slope. They can happen after heavy rains, droughts and earthquakes.

With the most powerful storm of the season thrashing the Los Angeles area over the next few days, people are fearing dangerous conditions, property damage and for their safety.

Following a five year drought, Californians are now facing challenges with severe storms plaguing the state. It will take years for the state’s overburdened groundwater reserves to recharge but the surface is another issue. California’s blessing and curse right now is the torrential recurring downpours. Atmospheric rivers are picking up moisture over the Pacific Ocean and carrying it north, dumping copious amounts along the way. Usually, in a good year, there’s one atmospheric river. This year, they are coming back to back to back. Though the recent rains have caused serious problems throughout Northern California, the threat grows for Southern California as well. 

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Mudslides generally develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground resulting in a surge of water-saturated rock, earth, and debris. Mudflows occur most in mountainous places where a long dry season is followed by heavy rains.

On steep hillsides, debris flows begin as shallow landslides that liquefy and accelerate. A typical landslide travels at 10 miler per hour, but can exceed 35 miles per hour. Slides can occur in all 50 states, but regions like the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coastal Ranges have “severe landslide problems,” according to the USGS. The agency lists California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii as especially prone.

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What areas are at risk?

  • Areas where wildfires or construction have destroyed vegetation.
  • Areas where landslides have occurred before.
  • Steep slopes and areas at the bottom of slopes or canyons.
  • Slopes that have been altered for construction of buildings and roads.
  • Channels along a stream or river.
  • Areas where surface runoff is directed.

How to prepare:

  • Develop emergency and evacuation plans for your family and business.
  • If you live in an area vulnerable to landslides, consider evacuation. Contact local authorities about emergency and evacuation plans.
  • Have a fully stocked first aid kit, alternative lighting (avoid flammable lighting such as candles or lanterns), a portable radio with extra batteries, and a strong food and water supply if you intend to stay in a dangerous area.
  • Be sure family, friends and co-workers are aware of your intent to stay and your exact location in advance of threatening weather (in the event you are in danger and unable to contact anyone later).
  • Listen to the radio or watch TV for warnings about intense rainfall or for information and instructions from local officials.

What to do during intense storms:

  • Continue to following reports on the radio or TV for updates or for information and instructions from local officials.
  • Be aware of any sudden increase or decrease in water level on a stream or creek that might indicate debris flow upstream. A trickle of flowing mud may precede a larger flow.
  • Look for tilted trees, telephone poles, fences or walls, and for new holes or bare spots on hillsides.
  • Listen for rumbling sounds that might indicate an approaching landslide or mudslide.
  • Be alert when driving. Roads may become blocked or closed due to collapsed pavement or debris.
  • If you see a landslide or mudslide starting, quickly move away from the path of the slide. Getting out of the path of a mudslide is your best protection. Move to the nearest high ground in a direction away from the path. If rocks and debris are approaching, run for the nearest shelter and take cover under a desk, table or other piece of sturdy furniture. (We recommend the same actions as if you were in an earthquake as described in our Earthquake Safety Blog.)

What should you do following a landslide:

  • Stay away from the site. (Flooding or additional slides may occur after a landslide or mudslide.)
  • Continue to listen to the radio or TV for emergency information.
  • Report broken utility lines to the appropriate authorities.
  • Consult a geotechnical expert for advice on reducing additional landslide problems and risks. Local authorities should be able to tell you how to contact a geotechnical expert.
  • Again, we recommend you use the same precautions following a landslide that you would after an earthquake.

IF YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS WAS IN OR NEAR A LANDSLIDE

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  • Please remember that even if the structure may appear safe but shifted, it is NOT safe.
  • Have a professional contractor or engineer inspect the structure for; electrical system damage, damage to gas lines or leaking gas and damage to water or sewer lines.
  • Remember, even if your structure is not visibly damaged but their was a landslide in the immediate area, there are still concerns such as contaminated water or a weakened foundation.

With the threat of mudslides growing during these unusually heavy and repetitious downpours, we hope that you can stay safe.  Please also remember, when driving in severe rain storms to practice safe driving procedures for inclement weather.

 

 

⛈Driving in the Driving Rain⛈ Tips for Safe Commuting

As the song says, “It never rains in Southern California, but don’t they warn you? It pours, man it pours.

After one of our worst droughts in history, Southern California has been getting drenched lately with heavy rainfall and strong winds. Many of us aren’t used to this kind of weather so we wanted to share some very important safety tips about driving in these dangerous and unfamiliar conditions.

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  • Check your tires before driving in severe rain. Tire tread is what allows your tires to ALIGNEMNT.jpgadhere to the road, which is why it’s so dangerous to drive with bald tires. Without the right traction, you can skid, slide, and hydroplane easily in wet conditions. (Click here for a simple way to check your tires at home.) 
  • Take your time. Slowing down is the only way to keep your vehicle from hydroplaning. Also remember that one of the most dangerous times to drive is soon after it begins to rain, as oils on roadway make for slick conditions. Waiting a few minutes, rather than rushing to your destination, can be a safer plan when it is raining.
  • Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer.Anticipate gusts by taking special care when driving through areas prone to strong winds or when weather reports predict severe weather.
  • Turn your lights on. Turn your headlights on to help other vehicles see you, even in broad daylight. Be sure to check your lights regularly to make sure none of your lights have burnt out, and replace dead lights immediately. This includes headlights, brake lights, turn signals, tail lights, and running lights. 
  • Use and maintain your windshield wipers. You can improve your visibility in wet conditions by ensuring that your wipers are up to the job, and by using the right washer fluid. Replace poorly or not working windshield wipers immediately and maintain them annually to prevent them from cracking, breaking, or not sealing properly when you need them most. 
  • Avoid slamming on the brakes. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to slide forward, and you won’t be able to control the car. Hitting the brakes too hard can also force water into your brakes, making them less effective.
  • Approach turns slowly. Turning too quickly on a wet road can cause your tires to hydroplane, and this means you won’t be able to control the car, and could skid out. 
  • DO NOT use cruise control. Cruise control is another factor that can lead to hydroplaning. The weight of the car shifts slightly when you ease on or off the accelerator, and this helps the tires maintain traction with the road. But with cruise control, because the speed of the car is constant, there is no weight shift, and the car can lose traction.
  • Do not drive through deep standing water, deep flowing water or puddles that you are unclear of their depth. Driving through deep or moving water can be hazardous for a number of reasons, including that you could get stuck, stall out, damage the car or the electrical components, or be swept away. If you encounter these types of road flooding, turn around and find another route. In a case where the only route is blocked, pull over and wait out the flooding.
  • Be prepared if you start to skid or hydroplaneSkidding on a wet road can be particularly frightening, but the key is to remain calm, look where you want to go, ease your foot off the accelerator, and gently steer in the direction you want to travel. Avoid braking and never slam on the brakes. Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles (56 km) per hour, and when it happens your car may not react when you turn the steering wheel, and your back end may feel loose. 
  • Stay focused! When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to always pay attention to the road, other cars, and pedestrians. This is especially true in the rain, when you cannot see as well, and your ability to stop may be hindered by the slickness of the road.

We know that SoCal traffic is bad enough in good weather and most of us are in a hurry to get to work on time.  Driving in traffic is stressful and when it’s slowing you down it’s easy to get frustrated.  Please keep an eye on the weather reports and plan ahead to avoid the frustration or pressures of feeling like you need to drive faster than you should in inclement weather.  It’s always best to leave 15-30 minutes earlier than you do under normal conditions because your safety is more important than sleeping in or being slightly put out.

Stay safe, SoCal, and be sure to subscribe to our blog for regular safety tips and articles to keep you well and happy in the New Year.