Mudslides, a sub-category of landslides, occur when piles of rock, soil, and other debris soaked in water forge an uncontrollable path. They can wash away entire cities and leave hundreds of people dead, injured, or missing.
Mudslides often force people to flee their surroundings to avoid their paths. Like floods, mudslides cover cities with layers of mud. Moving slowly or quickly, they can grow stronger and stronger until they can swallow trees, cars, and other matter.
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, alternative cycles of freezing and thawing, shifts in the ocean floor, and the steepening of slopes by erosion are all natural conditions that can lead to mudslides. Extreme run-off from heavy rains can also trigger mudslides. Wildfires can cause mudslides too because widespread fire kills roots that hold plants in place. This, in turn, loosens soil, thus making it more susceptible to mudslides.
Because of all the earthquakes, rainfalls, and wildfires that occur in the region, the American West Coast is very vulnerable to mudslides. However, mudslides can occur in all 50 U.S. states, even without warning. In California, ‘mudslide season’ lasts from December to April, when precipitation is frequent. California’s wildfires char its slopes and leave the area unprotected from mudslides after big rainfalls.
Different lands have varying soil compositions, slopes, and geographic characteristics. This makes it hard to predict whether a place is vulnerable to mudslides and, if so, when mudslide will happen. Mudslides are known to occur in areas they have previously damaged. Sometimes, evidence and remains left behind by a mudslide can take a long time to reach the surface.
Mudslides are a common, dangerous, and deadly natural phenomenon. So be careful of mud and debris during ‘mudslide season’!