SALEM, Ore. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) initiated a landslide discussion forum recently in Salem to promote sharing landslide mapping data among other agency stakeholders.
"FEMA staff are here to support the state in recovering from the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides earlier this year, and offered to initiate the forum to share landslide data that we are mapping in Oregon," said Dennis Burton, FEMA Public Assistance Officer. "It is anticipated that a permanent mapping landslide coalition will form, share information, and learn from each other with the result of utilizing data to save lives and protect infrastructure."
Oregon is vulnerable to landslides. Deaths from slides have been infrequent, but the ones along coastal U.S. Highway 101 and Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge have resulted in significant disruption of traffic and movement of commerce.
"Landslides are a significant threat to many communities, threaten infrastructure and can pose a serious life-safety hazard," said Oregon Emergency Management Mitigation Officer Dennis Sigrist. "The state wants to help homeowners impacted by repetitive debris flows or landslide damages, and is soliciting mitigation grant applications from cities and counties to go forward with this strategy."
While most landslides in the state are in lightly populated coastal and mountain areas, Oregon has all the natural ingredients for repetitive slides: steep terrain, rapid movement of boulders from freeze/thaw cycles, heavy rains, rapid snow melt, and earthquakes. According to Sigrist, mitigating against landslide losses is the best option, and mapping can assist in avoiding the hazard altogether. "There is no such thing as landslide insurance," Sigrist said.
To date FEMA has mapped several sites impacting roads and utilities in the counties of: Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Lincoln, Linn, Polk, and Tillamook. The information is being entered into a historical reference database, in a software compatible format, and includes location and type of landslide, i.e., whether it is caused by slope failure, debris flow, erosion, mudflows, etc.
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.