Understand Your Colorado Landslide and Avalanche Risks with this Checklist

Know your risk and protect your home from landslides and avalanches with this simple checklist.

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Landslides and avalanches affect every state in the U.S., from Florida to Alaska. For homeowners in Grand Junction, CO, the risk of landslides is growing. To find out if you live in an area impacted by landslides and avalanches in the U.S., check out the U.S. Geological Survey (USCG) interactive online map. The interactive map will help you better understand your risk.

The Rocky Mountain states, along with Alaska and the West Coast of the United States, are the country’s most landslide-prone. In addition, communities in Appalachia on the east coast, as well as the Northeastern United States, the Midwest, and Puerto Rico also experience more landslides than other areas of the country. 

To learn about landslides affecting the state of Colorado, visit the Colorado Geological Survey’s (CGS) website. A widespread and active geologic hazard in many areas of the state, landslides that pose a risk to communities and infrastructure in Colorado are carefully mapped and inventoried by the CGS. As areas throughout the state of Colorado are developed and more homes and businesses built, the combination of extreme weather events and cleared land for development are increasing homeowners’ risk of landslides. In fact, they cause millions of dollars in damages in the state each year. 

what to do after a landslide occurs

What is a Landslide?

A landslide is defined as a major, sudden movement of land, including soil, artificial filling, and rocks. Usually composed of a combination of factors, including soil flow, slides, spreading, falls, or toppling layers, a landslide can affect areas from slight hills to steep mountains. One thing each has in common is its fast pace. Landslides are caused by gravity and one or more of these common factors: 

  • Land erosion (often from developing land) 
  • Slope failures (often on steep slopes) 
  • Soil saturation from extensive snowmelt or heavy rain 
  • Earthquakes and volcanoes 

What Makes an Area More Landslide-Prone?

According to the USGS, homeowners in areas with one or more of these common risk factors are more prone to landslides. The common risk identifiers include: 

  • Previous landslide activity 
  • Slopes—on top or on the bottom of a steep land area 
  • Drainage hollows and old fill slopes (homes situated nearby) 
  • Newly developed land, especially hillsides and areas with leach field septic systems 

What are the Warning Signs of a Landslide? 

If you live in an area that has experienced landslides in the past, has new construction, or is situated near a steep slope, it’s best to understand how to identify the common warning signs of a landslide in progress. Some of the common indicators of a landslide include: 

  • Damp soil conditions from extensive rain or snowmelt
  • Cracks or bulges in the ground, streets, or sidewalks
  • Foundation problems from moving soil near or under a home’s exterior, often identified by sticking or hard-to-open doors and windows 
  • Deck or patio problems caused by moving soil conditions 
  • Damaged water lines and underground utilities
  • Broken fences, telephone poles, and trees
  • An increase or sudden decrease in water levels in creeks and rivers 
  • Faint rumbling that increases in intensity and sounds of trees cracking or boulders falling

How to Protect Yourself During a Landslide

If you are driving and identify a landslide warning sign, move to higher ground and away from rivers, creeks, and bridges. Remember to “turn around, don’t drown,” and never drive through standing water or over bridges experiencing fast-moving water during an emergency or major weather event. Stay alert for holes or cracking in the roadway or sidewalks.

If you are home or in another building during a landslide, move to the highest room in the building. Stay alert and awake if a landslide risk is perceived. Listen to emergency alerts and weather broadcasts and follow the directions of emergency personnel. Be alert to sounds of rumbling that increase in intensity and cracking trees. 

What Should I do After a Landslide Occurs?

Once a landslide is over, the risk to life and property is ongoing. To ensure you understand the risk and know what to do after a landslide, review this checklist. Most importantly, stay away from areas or buildings impacted by the landslide until emergency personnel clear the area. Additional debris can start flowing again and structures can be impacted by a landslide and become unstable.

Stay away from downed power lines, broken roadways, and propane tanks that have moved during the event. Check your home’s basement or crawl space for water damage and clean up water or debris immediately while drying the area completely.

If your home is impacted by a landslide or other major weather event, contact the foundation repair experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado for help identifying and fixing damage to your home’s foundation before it grows worse. Schedule a free home inspection today.

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