What are mudslides and how can you survive one?
Mudslides are huge flow of mud down a slope. They occur when a large amount of water causes soil erosion on a steep slope. Sudden snowmelt at the mountain top or intense rainfall can trigger a mudslide as the water mixes with soul making it to liquefy and move downhill.
A mudslide varies form watery mud to thick mud with tons of debris including houses, trees or rocks. They are responsible for many deaths and million dollars’ worth of property damage every year. Some mudslides rush downhill at speeds of 50 miles per hour laying houses and everything in the way. An example is the mudslide in Vargas, Venezuela in December 14, 1999. It affected over 37 miles of the coastline, killed over 30,000 people and destroyed property worth $3 billion.
How to survive mudslides
Mudslides mostly occur in areas with steep slopes. Mountainous areas that have been altered to build roads and homes are also prone to mudslides. When human activities such as wildfires or construction destroy vegetation, erosion is increased in the area and mudslides are the natural results.
To protect yourself from mudslides, before building your home, have a geological survey specialist asses the area for possible mudslide risks. If you can, avoid areas that have experienced mudslides in the past as they are more likely to happen again.
However, if you have no choice but to settle in a mudslide prone area, consider building a retaining wall in the channels where mudslides are likely to occur. Also, plan an evacuation route and have battery powered NOAA weather radio.
Mudslide prone areas will show signs of impending trouble. Some of the warning signs to watch out for include cracks on the walls, pavement, flooring, foundations or driveways, structures such as the stairs begin to separate from the building, doors and windows start to become jammed, trees, fences utility poles begin to tilt, utility lines begin breaking, water starts collecting in weird places, the terrain starts to bulge or slant at the base of the slope or roads and embankments along the slope starts to break off the edges.
If you notice any of these signs, you should immediately vacate your home and seek shelter in a safe area. Stay away from the mudslide area as further mudslide is more likely to occur.
If you are caught suddenly at home, go to the second story if you have one and watch out for the downed power lines. As the mudslide passes through your house, get under a table, curl into a tight ball and protect your head with a helmet or your hands.
If you get trapped in the mud, try and create an air pocket around you. This way, you will be able to survive for about four days within which you can expect the rescue team to have arrived.
The danger is not over after a mudslide passes. There may be a lot of damage left that can present hazards and there may be a danger of additional slide.