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Earth Science

Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades 230

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Seattle Times reports that since the 1950s, geological reports on the hill that buckled last weekend, killing at least 17 residents in Snohomish County in Washington State, have included pessimistic analyses and the occasional dire prediction. But no language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed warning of 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure.' Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist, documented the hill's landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. Miller knows the hill's history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s and has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up. That's why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones. 'Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river,' says Miller. 'We've known that it's been failing. It's not unknown that this hazard exists.'" (More, below.)
"The hill that collapsed is referred to by geologists with different names, including Hazel Landslide and Steelhead Haven Landslide, a reference to the hillside's constant movement. After the hill gave away in 1949, in '51, in '67, in '88, in 2006, residents referred to it simply as 'Slide Hill.' 'People knew that this was a landslide-prone area,' says John Pennington. Geomorphologist Tracy Drury said there were discussions over the years about whether to buy out the property owners in the area, but those talks never developed into serious proposals. 'I think we did the best that we could under the constraints that nobody wanted to sell their property and move.'"
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Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades

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  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @09:14AM (#46609135)

    The hurricane situation is a lot stupider than this one. The states force insurance companies to provide insurance to everyone and dictate that the rates can't be too high. So the insurance company raises the rate state-wide to cover the costs of the people living in the most prone areas. My mother-in-laws Florida home that just sold for a whopping $60k had premium that was $5000 per year before she sold it. That's INSANE. But the majority of the states revenue comes from the coast so that's what they protect.

  • Re:Muh freedoms! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @11:26AM (#46609737)
    One tricky part there, people have children. The adults who buy the land and sign the documents might be able to understand the risks (I say might since the risks are probably presented to them through a filter), but their children can not... so right there you have a population living within a dangerous area who have no control over being there nor do they have the ability/resources to purchase their own private ways of being safe.
  • Re:'Murica! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jythie ( 914043 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @11:31AM (#46609761)
    On the other hand, subsidizing risky behavior lowers your own costs for living in safer regions. If all the people living in flood plains, tornado alleys, hurricane magnets, etc, all decided it was too risky and moved, what do you think it would do to your cost next time you wanted to move?
  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Saturday March 29, 2014 @11:31AM (#46609765)

    Ask yourself this - if you consider a $60k house "disposable", how likely are you to live in a $60k house? And if it's not disposable, then here's a fair chance you have a mortgage. And if you have a mortgage then the bank will require insurance. And even if you don't have a mortgage you still have to consider the odds that something will happen to your house in the next 12 years - the "break even" point where you would be better off just saving the money.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982