Landslide Risk Always Exists in Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Landslide Risk Always Exists in Nevada

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Between one and two dozen people are killed by landslides in the U.S., every year. And that statistic hit close to home more than 30 years ago when a landslide killed a man in Washoe Valley.

It was Memorial Day in 1983 when a large chunk of earth came crashing down on the southeast side of Slide Mountain.

An eyewitness at the time told Channel 2 News, "All of a sudden, all the trees started coming down. You could see them getting knocked down and we thought it was a bulldozer and everything, trees and logs and everything came over. So, we put it in reverse and backed down to the house."

The slide in Washington state was the result of heavy rainfall. The one here happened because of snow runoff. "That had been a very heavy winter and then it warmed up very quickly, that May. And that snowpack saturated the rocks up there with water and then they gave way," says state geologist Jim Faulds.

The landslide fell into upper and lower price lake causing an overflow that sent millions of gallons of water down the hill. Boulders the size of cars took out everything in their path. Ernie Jesch was with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office, at the time. "First responding officer came back and reported that there was 15 feet of mud across the road. I was on my way out and thought that's not much mud. But he didn't mean 15 feet across. He meant 15 feet deep."

A Gardnerville man was killed in the mudslide and several others were injured. It also destroyed seven homes and ten vehicles.

A series of landslides have happened, because of how the layers of the mountain are angled. "You saturate the rock, you fill those fractures with water and that can fail and come down the mountain," says Faulds.

Faulds says it's possible we could see this type of event in our area in the future simply because of the terrain and weather patterns. "Anywhere you have large amounts of topographic relief, mountains and significant rainfall, you can get landslides."

Geologists are keeping an eye on a slow-moving landslide in Mogul that's been slowly creeping over time. There's no development underneath it, but it could impact the Truckee River if it were to break off.

Written by Paul Nelson 

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