Drought Likely Cause of Mt. Shasta Mudslide

September 24, 2014

The largest mudslide on Northern California’s Mt. Shasta in two decades may be related to California’s prolonged drought, experts said Sunday.

The mudslide began Saturday after a glacier holding pockets of water either shifted or melted, releasing water down the southeastern side of Mt. Shasta, said Andrea Capps, a spokeswoman for Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

No injuries or damage to structure were reported, Capps said.

“It’s been an unusually warm September in Northern California, so our running theory is that the glacier got too weak and released water behind it,” Capps said. “This is not terribly uncommon, but it’s the largest mudslide we’ve seen in 20 years.”

The three-year-long drought has left the mountain’s glaciers, which are typically protected by snow, exposed to the sun’s heat.

“The drought and the warm temperatures probably contributed to the event,” said Brian Nieuwenhuis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon.

The water sent mud and debris cascading down several miles and across two roads. The roads will have to be closed for several days for cleanup.

Capps said the mud and debris flow will likely affect the water quality and fishing in the lower McCloud River.

The area could see a thunderstorm Tuesday and Wednesday, which could bring snow between 10,000 and 12,000 feet or rain, which could send more silt, rock and debris down the mountain, Nieuwenhuis said.

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