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How To Avoid A Mudslide

Mudslides may seem like total muddy chaos, but what is the cause?

mudslide

Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation

Mudslides are capable of taking out large trees, cars, nearly anything in their path.

Mudslides Hit China

The truth is, mudslides don’t just cause dirty messes. They are extremely destructive, even deadly!

One extreme case in China wiped out much of the town of Zhouqu, taking at least 330 lives.

Mudslides are made up of rock, dirt, random debris and of course, water. They can start off slow and gradually pick up momentum (and more mud!) as they move downward. This incredible force is capable of taking out large trees, cars, nearly anything in its path.

Pretty frightening. So how do we know when a mudslide is coming?

(The bad news is that mudslides can occur any time of the year and can come without any warning!)

Most Likely Causes

Most mudslides are caused by excessive rain, which loosens the soil and starts to wash it downhill. But there are other causes too. Ground movement (earthquakes or volcanoes) can trigger a slide. It can also occur in areas where there is a lot of alternating of freezing and thawing in the ground. Even wildfires contribute to mudslides by leaving a lot of loose debris on the forest floor.

However, not all the causes are natural. Man can create a mudslide-prone area through careless building construction or any other type of land modification. Most builders inspect the land before it is built on and then drain, if necessary.

Staying Safe

There is not much that can be done to prevent a mudslide, but people can pay attention to the land and play it safe. People living in hilly or mountainous areas, especially ones prone to wildfires, earthquakes or heavy rainfall have to be extra cautious. Know where hazardous slopes are in your area!

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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