People living in the path of a deadly Washington state landslide had virtually no warning before they heard a wall of mud, trees and other debris thunder down the mountain.
Unlike the warning systems and elaborate maps that help residents and officials prepare for floods and hurricanes, there’s no national system to monitor slide activity and no effort underway to produce detailed nationwide landslide hazard maps.
The federal government doesn’t track or inventory slide areas nationwide, despite a plan to do so more than a decade ago when Congress ordered up a strategy to reduce landslide losses.
That’s left states and communities to put together a patchwork of maps showing landslide hazards. And some are discovering more buildings are sitting on unstable ground.