What to Do If Slope Erosion Threatens Your Home
Landslides don’t typically receive as much coverage as other natural disasters. But in terms of fatalities and property damage, the devastating effects can be just as bad:
- Annual property damage from landslides is estimated to be between $2 billion and $4 billion
- When adjusted for inflation, the cleanup efforts following a 1984 landslide in Thistle, Utah cost nearly $400 million (in 2010 dollars)
- As many as 50 people are killed annually – with many more suffering from serious injuries
And thanks to climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, slope erosion is only getting worse – often in regions of the country not traditionally known for heavy rains.
According to the US Geological Survey, “There is a significant slope movement hazard in North Carolina, mainly in the mountainous western region.” In fact large portions of the state now have designated “landslide seasons” – a reflection of how bad the situation is becoming.
Some quick highlights:
- Asheville, NC has received more rainfall this year than at anytime in the previous 40 years (and 2013 isn’t even over yet)
- A 2004 landslide in Peeks Creek, NC took 5 lives and destroyed 15 homes
- That same year, Watuaga County lost 1 home and had to condemn 8 others as “unsuitable” for occupancy
How to Protect Your Property from Slope Erosion
The best protection is avoidance. Don’t purchase homes or businesses near mountain edges, drainage ways, steep slopes, or natural erosion valleys.
But this advice is of little practical use for existing property owners. So what should you do if you’re already in your home or business?
- Determine if you’re in a high risk area for landslides by contacting your state’s geological survey (click here if you’re a North Carolina resident – click here for all other states)
- If you suspect that your property is at risk, get a ground assessment from one of the following:
- professional slope stabilization contractor
- geotechnical engineer
- natural resources surveyor
- Protect your property from potential gas or water leaks by installing flexible pipe fittings
- Erect retaining walls to redirect cascading debris and water around your property
- Plant trees and shrubs in high-risk areas to prevent soil erosion. For land that you don’t personally own, you’ll need permission from the city and/or property owner
Before Taking Any Further Action…
Avoid do-it-yourself solutions at all costs. Landslide prevention is highly specialized work that requires experienced professionals. Even with something as simple as planting shrubs, it’s best to consult experts who can advise you on the best locations.
In addition, you’ll need to do a cost/benefit analysis of any slope stabilization measures. If the cost of fixing the problem exceeds the monetary value of the property, you’re better off relocating. Slope stabilization professionals can advise you on costs and timelines.