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Washington Landslide A Wake-Up Call About Threat Of Natural Disasters In San Diego

Evening Edition

Aired 4/2/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Pat Abbott, San Diego State University Geology Professor Emeritus

Transcript

The extent of the landslide tragedy in Washington state continues to unfold.

According to the latest update, officials say 29 bodies have been recovered from the collapse of the Hazel Slide in the town of Oso. Another 20 people are still reported missing.

San Diego State University Geology Professor Emeritus Pat Abbott said the mudslide was not a surprise to him. He said it happened in what is probably the most landslide-active place in the United States. What did surprise him however is how large it is and that it happened right next to a civilized area.

There are not many comparisons to be drawn between the heavily forested and rain soaked terrain of Northern Washington and usually sunny San Diego. But fire and rain have also undermined some hillsides in our region, and as what happened in Oso, not many people seem to take the ongoing threat of a natural disaster seriously.

Abbott said in San Diego, we're lucky in the sense that we don't have a specific area that's prone to landslide. The wildcard, he said, is an earthquake.

Additionally, he said a fierce El Niño would correlate very strongly with landslides in San Diego.

But, Abbott said, landslides in San Diego tend to be much smaller and slower moving. They destroy property but usually don't kill people.

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