Why landslides happen and could happen here - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Why landslides happen and could happen here

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

After dealing with the state's largest wildfire that burned through hundreds of miles of land, Okanogan County is now dealing with something else. A landslide swept through, completely closing roads, and trapping people in their homes.

“With all that vegetation gone, the water just runs off and creates a large pile at the bottom of the hill,” said U.S. Geological Survey Geologist Tom Frost.

Frost says there are many factors that can trigger a landslide: earthquakes, rivers creating unstable ground, or as in the case of Okanogan County, a lot of rain with nothing to catch it.

“The big problem in the recent events has been that there were all the fires, which burned off the vegetation, which helps hold both the moisture and rocks in place,” Frost explained.

Once a landslide has happened, re-building back to the way it was before is not really an option.

“There really is no normal after something like that happens because once a landslide occurs, the ground is fundamentally unstable,” Frost said.

Frost says it is even something that could happen here in the Latah Creek area down by the golf courses.

“The stream has undercut the cliffs reducing the stability, similar to this Oso situation and that can precipitate a landslide coming down at anytime whether or not there is rain,” Frost said.

Once a landslide happens in an area, Frost says it forever changes the landscape. It also means the area is prone to having more landslides happen again in the future.

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