Part of the aftermath of a record wildfire season here in California is the potential for devastating floods and landslides as we move into the rainy part of the year. Plants, shrubs and trees provide stability to soils, and when they are destroyed, saturated ground may slide downhill, destabilizing additional soils, uprooting trees and destroying structures in its path. It is estimated that landslides cause about $1 billion of damage annually in the US alone.
Prepare by maintaining erosion-preventing landscaping and retaining walls around your property. When rains begin, pay attention to runoff patterns (especially points where water converges), note seasonal creeks, and avoid these areas during storms. If pooling, flooding or run-off have been problems in the past, you may wish to have a professional assess your property and recommend improvements. Make sure your 72-hour kits are packed and ready for any emergency.
Watch out for warning signs of landslides: shifting or cracking concrete foundations, patios or driveways; doorways and windows out of square; lampposts, fenceposts, and decks leaning; a sudden increase or decrease in water flow in creeks; increasing noise as the landslide approaches.
During storms when landslides are likely, stay alert and listen to weather reports. Contact local police and fire departments for current conditions and recommendations. Contact neighbors, especially the elderly, to see if they need assistance. Evacuate if you feel prompted to do so and follow recommended routes to avoid getting trapped or caught in the landslide. If you choose to stay you may be safer on a second story. If you find you cannot escape, curl into a tight ball and protect your head and neck with your arms and hands.
Map of all past CA landslides (click on square and then right arrow on pop-up for complete information)