March 30, 2014

"Exactly 50 years ago Thursday, in Alaska, the second largest earthquake in recorded history, magnitude 9.2, remade the Last Frontier State."

"What had been gravel beaches rose to become 30-foot cliffs. What had been forests at sea level were submerged, leaving only the ghostly silver tips that you can still see. In Anchorage, 42,000 people were left homeless."

From a column by Timothy Egan titled "A Mudslide, Foretold," which is mostly about the recent mudslide in the Stillaguamish Valley in Washington.


Fritz said...

The earth in not your friend.

DKWalser said...

We were living in Fairbanks at the time of the earthquake. I was five. I remember the car in our driveway rocked back and forth. The pictures on top of our piano vibrated.

My father worked for the FAA. In his spare time, he served as the local Mormon bishop. In addition to the local congregation, he was responsible for the congregation in Valdez. A few days after the earthquake, he flew us down to meet with members and see assistance they might need. The destruction was something a five year-old could not comprehend. I don't know if I would have been able to comprehend it had I been 55.

The Drill SGT said...

A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.

The whole piece made no sense. Was it an earthquake or was it a mudslide because of clear cutting? If it was clear cutting the case seems weak.

less than half the basin was cut over 30 years. Well in 5 or 10 years you get growth back that stabilizes the slope, so at any given time, 10% is clear and 90% isn't?

campy said...

I blame Bush and Palin.

CWJ said...

Wow! I remember that and the photos that appeared in "Life" & "Look." But I didn't know that it was THAT strong.

Full disclosure. I accessed the internet for this comment via my secret router.

Nonapod said...

It's interesting that even in this day and age with all the geographical data we have about the locations of earthquake zones, floodplains, karst lands, and tornado areas... we still have so many people who are evidently willing to build and live in such areas. Of course no place is completely safe from natural disasters, but there are certain areas that seem to be much more prone to them than others, and we often know where these high risk areas are.

We humans tend to be short term thinkers I guess.

Wince said...

I'm highly skeptical of this guy's prefered narrative.

Unforeseen — except for 60 years’ worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined “the potential for a large catastrophic failure” on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.

It is human nature, if not the American way, to look potential disaster in the face and prefer to see a bright and shining lie. The “taming” of this continent, in five centuries and change, required a mighty mustering of cognitive dissonance. As a result, most of us live with the danger of wildfire, earthquake, tornado, flooding, drought, hurricane or yet-to-be-defined and climate-change-influenced superstorm. A legacy of settlement is the delusion that large-scale manipulation of the natural world can be done without consequence.

What happened when the earth moved on a quiet Saturday morning in the Stillaguamish Valley was foretold, in some ways, by the relationship that people have with that sylvan slice of the Pacific Northwest...

And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast.

As if logging, not the location of population, in a known mudslide area was the problem.

Now go to this story in the Washington Post. Notice:

1.) In the video, look how thick the trees are along the perimeter of the mudslide area. It doesn't look like heavy industrial logging had taken place there or inside the mudslide perimeter. (Even where logging occurs, aren't the roots left in the ground?)

2.) Listen to the geologist give his explanation of the cause, and the 1999 report, and it having nothing to do with logging.

3.) Instead, (in the Graphic) see how erosion of the "toe" at the bottom of the hill was the cause, not a lack of trees above.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

It's all logging's fault (I guess so was the earthquake in Alaska; why not). Absent logging, that old-growth timber would still be there anchoring that hillside, which would not have collapsed to bury the town, which would also not be there because the people who settled the Puget Sound region* (where I was born and raised) are there there because of the timber industry in the first place.

*(a hundred years before the assholes from California that ruined the state in the 70s and 80s)

Scott said...

Anthropogenic climate change.


Wince said...

Wrong link, above; full link, below.

Before the Washington mudslide, warnings of the unthinkable, in the Washington Post.

madAsHell said...

My son is a firefighter in the Skagit river valley (the next valley to the north). He was dispatched to the east side of the slide to perform crowd control, and evacuate people.

He sent some pictures with a caveat. "Dad, here's how I spent Saturday afternoon. The pictures don't even begin to tell the full story. It's huge."

He also said that the toughest part was turning away people that were searching for loved ones in the unstable debris field.

madAsHell said...

My son also said it was colder than he expected.

Does the newly exposed earth suck the heat out of the air?? The newly exposed earth creates a convection cell that pumps cold air into the valley??

FullMoon said...

Yes, but who wants to listen to warnings by pesky scientists, to pay heed to predictions by environmental nags, or allow an intrusive government to limit private property rights? That’s how these issues get cast.

Ha Ha!
I'm still waiting for the"Big One" here in San Francisco.
And, I guess L.A. is doomed in the next couple of days.

cubanbob said...

Read the article and worse read some of comments in the NYT. Bunch of smug assholes. It never occurred to them that the so-called super-storm Sandy was also just as predictable. What's NYCs excuse to have had such shoddy infrastructure that couldn't handle a hurricane that folks in Florida would snooze through?

Anonymous said...

I live in Seattle (50 miles away or so), and have some acquaintances up there, I worked with a guy who did a few home inspections in Oso and Darrington and another who worked for Snohomish county fire and rescue a while back.

I don't know If this qualifies me for anything.

This is honestly the first time I've heard logging mentioned. From what I hear, there was a minor slide in 2006 on the same hill, and the US geological survey has done some work had taken a look at that hill but nothing was ever done. Some folks knew it was a risk, all sediment, no bedrock and just glacial till mostly.

People knew and they didn't, paid attention and ignored it.

We've had less snow this winter, but lots and lots of rain the last month and a half. This saturated the hill, and the Stillaguamish was running high, and also undercutting the base of the hill. The whole thing snapped and spilled out big time.

That seems like a messy article, with little relevance.

Thoughts and prayers to everyone affected.

Paco Wové said...

Are you sure it was about the landslide? It sounds like it was about that civilization-ending nemesis, !!Global Climate Warming Change!!

Anonymous said...

Much of the old growth forest and timber is gone, this is true, but you deal with what is there.

I hope no one knowingly withheld information about the danger, when selling their homes, for instance.

I went to 1500 feet long, 4400 feet wide, 600 feet high and 30-40 feet deep in places.

You probably would have heard a loud noise, and then been overwhelmed quickly.

Don't want to think about it too much.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

My wife was five years old living in Palmer AK, about forty miles from Anchorage. The shaking went on so long, she just resigned herself to the idea that that was the way it was going to be from then on.

Titus said...

the hubby and I went to Rockport and Newburyport today. It was rainy but dam those cities are beautiful on the Atlantic too.

Quintessianal New England.

the only downside was some twangy southern accents from Atlanta tourists being all friendly.


Anonymous said...

Crazy Street Corner Guy Off His Meds Says:

The Earth goes in cycles, I go in cycles. I feel earthquakes that no one ever even notices, they just keep walking by and I feel the tiny shudder beneath my feet, I feel it and they do not, I know what the ground sounds like, I listen -- I listen. At the height of my cycles God speaks to me, I do not recognize the language but I understand the Voice, and when I am high on my cycle I -- for a few moments -- am the New Jesus Christ. I try to warn people but they walk on by, they walk on by until the Highest father drops a building on their heads: of course they pray now, they pray now because they have something to lose, their limbs are shattered but they are not even concerned about the condition of their Souls. I am the New Jesus now: I will only save those that I want to Save.

tmitsss said...

Logging caused the Ninth Ward to flood

virgil xenophon said...

I was a soph at LSU at the time. It sloshed water in bathtubs in Baton Rouge and, sitting in Dodson Auditorium (in, of all classes, geography class) at the exact moment of the quake, we could feel a slight tremor thru our feet.

Michael said...

There were catostrophic mudslides in the Santa Cruz mountains in the early eighties. No logging involved but lots of huge second growth redwoods.

Big Mike said...

It is a very strange article. He seems to want to blame the logging industry, but as others in this thread have noted the logging in the area has not been recent.

Let's look at this picture. There are mature trees on the slope, and the area that slipped away goes way below the root line.

And I don't know where and how the Alaska quake figures into the Washington tragedy.

Gospace said...

Floodplains. They are called that for a reason. And every year, like clockwork, several communities somewhere in the nation are inundated because of a "50 year" rain event.

And if you didn't buy subsidized flood insurance, you're out of luck. A regular insurance policy doesn't cover flooding. Subsidized means you and I pay for idiots to build in floodplains.

Any city/town/village built on a floodplain should, after it is totally or near totally destroyed, be completely relocated to higher ground. Structure rebuilding in the flood plain should be allowed only if the owner is willing to assume all risks involved. That is, no insurance policies should be allowed to be issued in known floodplains.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Read John McPhee's "The Control of Nature". River floodplains, mudslides, and volcanoes.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Read John McPhee's "The Control of Nature". River floodplains, mudslides, and volcanoes, plus the usual great McPhee writing about the people involved.

Anonymous said...

When a serious earthquake hits NYC (and one is overdue), I'm sure this clown will write an op-ed telling everyone that the destruction is their own fault (pun intended).

gadfly said...

Its those damn fool furiners from Appalachia what did it - bunch of no-nothing hillbillies!

What incredible enviromental BS comparing the shifting of rock along a fault line in Alaska during an earthquake to a mudslide brought on by pounding heavy rainfall.

Things like this don't just happen in pristine Washington state with all its environmental man-made dams blocking salmon runs.

Two years ago, spring rains were so intense in Indiana that a healthy 90-foot oak in my backyard toppled onto my neighbor's house because the wet clay base supporting it's root structure would no longer hold it upright.

That summer a straight line wind storm (I think it is called a dericho) with gusts up to 100 mph accompanied by hurricane-like sounds blasted through town ripping trees and breaking off huge limbs. If you recall that storm started in the Rockies and carried to the Atlantic Ocean. I suppose the enviros blamed it on global warming.

Mourning the dead in Washington is appropriate but placing blame is way over the top.

CharlesVegas said...

If the hill had been logged, water would have flowed off it readily. The trees helped retain the water, allowing it to soak into and weaken the hillside.

George M. Spencer said...

I did a huge double take reading your headline, especially after having read it twice and glossing over its meaning...


I finally took in its meaning after reading 'virgil' above say that he felt this quake in Louisiana.

Here's the Wiki list of the other monsters. The four New Madrid quakes that hit northwest Tennessee in 1811-12 don't even make the list. They clocked in at between 7.4-8.0.

The 1886 Charleston quake was between 6.6-7.3.

Because the Richter scale is logarithmic, a 9.0 quake is 10 times stronger than an 8.0.

Church bells rang in Boston, as they did during the Tennessee events.

I hope all zoos monitor animals for weird behaviors....."Hello, Barack, the geese are restless, and snakes are coming out of the ground."

Paco Wové said...

"He seems to want to blame the logging industry, but as others in this thread have noted the logging in the area has not been recent."

He's gotta make the analogy somehow. He needs a human activity upon which natural events can be blamed. Logging = modern greenhouse gas producing industrial activity. Hillside = vengeful Gaia. Residents of area = us, done in by vengeful Gaia.

Make the connections, people!!

paminwi said...

No one mentins that the community via their mayor/town/city council approved the idea that houses could be built in that area. Who was their city planner and what research was done about the potential slide activity in the area? Sounds to me like there was plenty of information to be had about the possibility of a slide.

A community and its governance group has to be the ones held repsonsible because they approved it in the first place. No building permits - no houses damagaed - possibly no lives lost.

SteveR said...


madAsHell said...

A community and its governance group has to be the ones held repsonsible because they approved it in the first place.

The slide rolled past the river, and all the way across the valley. When it hit the other side of the valley, it rolled back down again.

There were no houses in the immediate slide area. Most of the houses were all across the river. No one could have predicted the size, and energy of the slide.

southcentralpa said...

The valdez earthquake also made a deuce of a tsunami in Hilo, as well. An image exists (couldn't find it quickly, alas), one of those 'the camera survived but the person who took the picture didn't' type pictures, oceanographers believe that wave was as big as a wave is physically capable of being (or that what my oceanography prof said, anyway).

SchrefflerFamily said...

Note, even the "1999 report" that so many are saying telling residents they "ought to have known" didn't predict the SCALE of this mudslide.

It crossed the river, yes. But most of the houses actually engulfed were not in the envisoned danger zone.

I'd like someone to do a back of the envelope study and see how much of the US would be inhabitable if nowhere could be lived in that had some sort of risk of some sort of national disaster associated with it.