Mudslides cause millions of dollars in damage every year. Not only do they threaten unsuspecting drivers by wiping out roads, but they also destroy homes and can leave trails of destruction miles wide. If you live in an area prone to mudslides, there are a few preventative measures you can take to protect your home and family from this devastating force of nature.
Strongly rooted vegetation is perhaps the best guard against future landslides. The roots of trees and plants will help keep loose soil from running down hillsides. Avoid planting heavier vegetation, which can potentially break loose and create even more damage. You will also have to remember to keep trees and plants well-watered. Dead and dry plants will not guard against mudslides.
Retaining walls are a great alternative to planting vegetation. Large, sturdy walls can help stop mudslides from getting worse and can also help to divert water flow away from buildings. Be careful, however, when choosing to install retaining walls around your home. Mudslides are powerful forces and can easily sweep away a weak wall. Make sure the retaining wall is rated to handle excessive forces and will not damage structures if swept away.
In the event of a mudslide, properly constructed flow areas, channels, and deflection walls can direct materials away from structures. Be cautious, however, about where the debris is deflected. If the mudslide ruins a neighbor’s property, you might be liable for damages, including loss of life. Consult an insurance company about the laws in your area. You can also get a geological survey of your property to determine flow direction around the home.
Sandbags and Straw Wattles
For a less permanent solution, install sandbags or burlap bags around the perimeter of the home for protection against mudslides. This can stop smaller mudslides from gaining momentum, though they will not do much against a large flow of debris. You can also purchase straw wattles, which allow water to pass while stopping soil. Wattles are much longer than sandbags and are a great alternative for larger spaces.
There are many warning signs associated with areas susceptible to mudslides. This includes changes in drainage patterns, small-scale slides, and downward leaning trees. In the home, you may notice doors and windows sticking, walkways detaching from buildings, and widening cracks in the ground. Mudslides are also very loud. If you hear a slight rumbling noise that gets continuously louder, immediately take action and get to a safe location.
Tips and Tricks
It's always a good idea to keep informed about the potential for mudslides in your area. Contact local officials to determine if your area has experienced debris flows in the past. You can also get an insurance company to do a ground assessment of the property. This will inform you as to whether or not the land around the home is susceptible to mudslides. It's always a good idea to make sure your homeowners insurance covers mudslides. Many insurance companies do not offer stand-alone mudslide coverage. At the very least, make sure your home has flood insurance to cover any water damage associated with a mudslide.
There are things you can do around the house that will help prevent further damage in the event of a mudslide. Consider installing flexible fittings around water and gas lines that can better withstand ground shifts. You can also raise appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, and electric panels off the ground. This will help prevent water damage in the event that your home is compromised. Lastly, make sure you know how to shut off the gas and water in case of emergency. The more you know, the better prepared you will be in the case of disaster.
Even the best precautions can fail in the event of a major mudslide. If you ever find yourself in such a position, it's critical to remain alert and aware of your surroundings. If you are caught inside a home, move to a second story and try to stay out of the debris path. Once the mudslide passes, watch for downed electrical lines and other sources of danger.