I did my case study on the 2005 La Conchita Landslide in California. In 2005 a landslide with over 400,000 tons of mud destroyed over 20 houses and killed ten people. Before this event happened there were fifteen days of huge amounts of rain. Due to this and the remobilization of the 1995 landslide, that also was caused because of the rain, the 2005 landslide was triggered and caused a lot of damage. The interesting thing is that the people were quite aware that there was a huge possibility that there would be another landslide before the one in 2005. Also there have been many landslides and mudslides over the past thousand years. In fact after the 1995 landslide happened, residents had to sign a waiver acknowledging that they know of the risk that comes with living there.

Although some of the residents moved after this event, many stayed. This is a small rural. community in the middle of the highway and the bluff (hill) that is right above the community. About 300 people live there and generations upon generations have lived there for many years. There are a couple of reasons the residents stayed. One was because of their socioeconomic status. This community is poorer than most. On top of that the properties decreased in price after the 1995 landslide so the people cannot afford to leave. However, the majority stay just because they are stubborn and refuse to move. Since their families have lived there forever, they do not want to leave even if it means risking their lives.

The recovery process was ineffective. Even though the emergency personnel advised the people to evacuate, they resisted and stayed. The county even asked for help from  Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue at the University of South Florida to bring in robots to help with finding the people buried under the tons of mud. However, the robots failed miserably and were sent back to Florida. In addition to this, the recovery plan that was proposed estimated $150,000,000. The county could not afford that and had to fundraise money. However, the plan to stabilize the hill was never carried out and instead a few barriers, a drainage system, and a wall to prevent small amounts of land erosion sliding down the hill was installed. This only helps with minor hazards. If there is ever a landslide, and geologists predict there will be, it will crush the houses and destroy their property once again.

The people in their own ways have tried to prepare themselves for the aftermath of another possible landslide after the 2005 one by keeping a storage shed filled with emergency supplies such as generators, radios, lights, sleeping bags, etc. They decided that if another landslide hits and crushes everything then they will just start from scratch and start all over again. The county even bought a tractor to remove dirt off the roads if need be. The people consider themselves “prepared” any future landslides because they now know to call 911, evacuate and honk their horns when the disaster hits to let others know of it.

It is amazing to think that people will rather risk their lives by staying in an extremely hazardous place then considering evacuating if possible.

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  1. I agree with your last statement that it is amazing (and crazy in my opinion!) that people wouldn’t evacuate even with being aware of the risk. I would be interested to survey people living there to find out if they actually think they would be hurt or if they feel like they are invincible and think nothing could happen to them. Also, I’m totally picturing a ton of people on the road during a massive landslide and everyone is honking their horns even though other people can see what is happening and it seems like that would just give everyone a massive headache and not really help at all.

  2. It’s interesting when people consciously choose to live in a very hazardous area that can be so consistently prone to disaster. This falls in a category of people accepting their potential losses and even loss of life and this is actually a form of mitigation. Knowing they are in danger and accepting it can be considered a way to mitigate against these catastrophes because the residents are well aware of what they are getting themselves into. A lot of times what makes a catastrophe is an unexpected event that takes lives and property, but in this case it is expected and anticipated. People may just have a lot of pride in their generation and where they grew up and therefore can not bring themselves to leave such an important family tradition. For some, carrying on family tradition means more than anything. We can only hope that their individual preparations can be enough to minimize loss of life and property damage, but there isn’t much that can be done to stop 400,000 tons of mud and debris.

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